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Career fire fighter/paramedic dies from injuries following an unexpected ceiling collapse - California.

Wertman SC; Bowyer ME
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2011-05, 2012 Jun; :1-40
On February 16, 2011, at 2320 hours, the victim's department and a mutual aid department were dispatched to a structure fire at a three-story 12,500 square foot, single family dwelling located on a hillside. Fire was observed on an exterior wall upon arrival. Additional fire was discovered within an interior wall that extended into a drop ceiling void space and into an attic. At 0003 hours (February 17, 2011), a 61-year-old male career fire fighter/paramedic (the victim) and several other career fire fighters were injured when a large section of the 1st floor interior ceiling suddenly collapsed onto them while they were attempting to gain access to the fire above them. Emergency traffic over the radio was immediately transmitted and the fire fighters and officers were quickly rescued from under the debris and treated. The victim succumbed to his injuries on February 18, 2011. The injured fire fighters and officers were treated for non-life threatening injuries. Contributing Factors: 1. Interior gas-burning fire place not installed and constructed to applicable building and fire codes; 2. Unique ceiling construction with large void space allowed fire to burn freely and undetected for unknown period of time deteriorating ceiling support members; 3. Sprinkler system unable to control the fire; 4. Difficulty in getting water on the seat of the fire; 5. Unexpected ceiling collapse. Key Recommendations: 1. Be aware of potential hazards associated with ceiling and roof structural elements that have been exposed to fire or other factors for an extended period of time and acknowledge the potential for a collapse within a structure; 2. Familiarize and train personnel on unique structures within their jurisdiction (e.g., hazards associated with hillside construction, building design, and modern interior construction); 3. Homeowners, contractors, and governing municipalities should ensure compliance with current building and fire codes within their jurisdiction.
Region-5; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-safety; Emergency-responders; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2011-05; B08012012
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division