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Career fire fighter killed by structure collapse while conducting interior search for occupants following 4th alarm - Texas.

Tarley JL; Merinar T; Butler C
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 F2013-17, 2014 Nov; :1-32
On May 20, 2013 a 51-year-old male career fire fighter (the victim) was conducting a primary search for occupants after the fourth alarm at a fire in an apartment complex and was killed inside the building when it collapsed. The victim and his partner were in the first floor hallway knocking on doors to the apartments, which were inset from the hallway by small vestibules. The victim's partner was in the vestibule knocking on the third door to the left and the victim was in the hallway going to knock on the third door on the right. In an instant the second floor walkway and possibly the third floor walkway collapsed into the first floor hallway killing the victim. The victim's partner was trapped in the inset of the doorway. Contributing Factors: 1. Inadequate building construction; 2. Sprinkler system not working near origin of fire; 3. Incident command; 4. Communications; 5. Inadequate Size-up; 6. Tactics. Key Recommendations: 1. Fire departments should ensure that the Incident Commander establishes a stationary command post, maintains the role of director of fireground operations, and does not become involved in fire-fighting efforts; 2. Fire departments should ensure that the Incident Commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before interior fire fighting operations begin; 3. Fire departments should ensure critical benchmarks are communicated to the Incident Commander; 4. Fire departments should develop, implement and enforce clear procedures for operational modes. Changes in modes must be coordinated between the Incident Command, the command staff and fire fighters; 5. Fire departments should ensure the pre-designated Incident Safety Officer assumes that role upon arrival on the fireground; 6. Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters are trained in situational awareness, personal safety, and accountability; 7. Fire departments should train on and understand the use and operation of elevated master streams and its effects on structural degradation; 8. Fire departments should ensure that pre-determined assignments are assumed and staffed; 9. Fire departments should train all fire fighting personnel in the risks and hazards related to structural collapse; 10. Municipalities, Building Owners, and authorities having jurisdiction should ensure that sprinkler systems are installed in multi-family housing units. Municipalities and authorities having jurisdiction should consider requiring building owners to regularly inspect sprinkler systems to ensure they are functioning properly.
Region-6; Fire-fighters; Emergency-responders; Fire-fighting; Fire-hazards; Fire-safety; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention; Accident-analysis; Accidents; Traumatic-injuries; Men; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2013-17; M122014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division