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Forest fire service fire fighter monitoring prescribed burn from roadway is struck and killed when smoke obscures visibility following a wind shift - New Jersey.

Wertman SC
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 F2013-06, 2014 Apr; :1-22
During a prescribed burn on March 28, 2013, a 35-year-old male state forest fire service hourly fire fighter (the victim) lost his life after being struck by a motorist. The victim, working alone but in close proximity to his other crew members, was monitoring a prescribed burn from an adjacent roadway while in his state forest fire service vehicle. For an unknown reason, the victim, exited this vehicle and walked onto the roadway. Even though signs had been placed to warn motorists approaching from different directions of an ongoing prescribed burn, the victim was struck by a passing motorist because smoke from the prescribed burn had obscured visibility. Lifesaving measures were immediately started and the victim was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Contributing Factors: 1. Victim working in unprotected travel lane. 2. Inconspicuousness of the victim. 3. Smoke-obscured roadway. 4. Shifting winds in the burn area. Key Recommendations: 1. Forest fire services should ensure that personnel receive proper training and have sufficient equipment and that appropriate procedures are in place for operating on or near roadways. 2. Forest fire services should ensure that safety circulars or standard operating procedures providing guidance on identifying and the importance of remaining in a safe location while working in or near moving traffic are implemented and enforced. 3. Forest fire services should establish pre-incident plans and agreements regarding traffic control incident management with local fire departments, EMS, law enforcement, local or state departments of highways, and other public and private sector responders. 4. Local, state, and federal department of highways should evaluate different types of media to ensure that motorists have ample warning of roadway hazards while operating a motor vehicle, especially when approaching and driving through a traffic incident management area, so that they avoid striking emergency responders, other vehicles, and/or traffic control devices.
Region-2; Fire-fighters; Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Emergency-responders; Safety-practices; Work-practices; Motor-vehicles; Training; Emergency-responders; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2013-06; M042014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division