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Career fire fighter dies during fire-fighting operations at a multi-family residential structure fire - Massachusetts.

Loflin ME; Miles ST; Hales T
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 F2011-31, 2013 Apr; :1-49
On December 23, 2011, a 42-year-old male career fire fighter died during fire-fighting operations on the 2nd floor of a three-story apartment building. The victim was assigned to Engine 5 (E5) with a lieutenant and driver/pump operator. E5 was the first-due engine company at this fire. The Incident Commander ordered E5 to take a 1¾" hoseline and attack the fire in a 2nd floor apartment. The lieutenant stretched the line to the landing of the 2nd floor but did not realize there were two apartments on the 2nd floor. Due to heavy smoke conditions, he went to Apartment 4 instead of the fire apartment (Apartment 3). Apartment 4 was locked, so he went to get the ladder company, which was operating on the 3rd floor. At this time, the lieutenant lost contact with the victim. The Incident Commander (Car 2) went to the 2nd floor landing, contacted the lieutenant from E5, advised him the fire was in Apartment 3, and the door was open. The lieutenant then entered the fire apartment, attempted to knock down the fire, and the apartment flashed. The lieutenant, with his helmet on fire, was pulled out of the apartment by members of Engine 3 and Ladder 1. At this time, the location of the victim was unknown. The lieutenant returned to the fire apartment with a thermal imaging camera (TIC) but the image was featureless due to the amount of heat and fire in the apartment. Several fire fighters stated they heard a personal alert safety system (PASS) alarm sounding but were unable to determine the location. The officer of the fourth-due engine company (Engine 7) entered the fire apartment, located the victim, and removed the victim with the help of two other fire fighters. Despite receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced life support (ALS) outside the structure, in the ambulance, and in the local hospital's emergency department (ED), the victim died. The death certificate and the autopsy listed the immediate cause of death as "probable cardiac dysrhythmia while fighting fire" with a contributory cause of "hypertensive cardiovascular disease." NIOSH investigators agreed and concluded that the physical stress of interior structural fire-fighting probably triggered a cardiac arrhythmia leading to his subsequent cardiac death. Contributing Factors: 1. Crew integrity; 2. Delay of initiating fire attack; 3. Inadequate fire stream application (penciling); 4. Inadequate fireground communications; 5. Lack of a personnel accountability system; 6. Failure to initiate a"Mayday;" 7. Lack of annual medical evaluation. Key Recommendations: 1. Ensure that crew integrity is properly maintained by voice contact or radio contact when operating in an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) atmosphere; 2. Ensure the Incident Commander communicates the strategy and Incident Action Plan to all members assigned to an incident; 3. Ensure that engine companies initiate a fire attack based upon scene size-up and the Incident Commander's defined strategy and tactics.
Region-1; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Emergency-responders; Fire-fighters; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Fire-fighting; Fire-safety; Training; Communication-systems; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Cardiovascular-disease; Heart; Physical-fitness; Medical-screening; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2011-31; B20130531
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division