Close Calls: A "Bad Day" on the Fireground – Part 2

A fire department in Texas had a "bad day" at a house fire, with two firefighters suffering burns. Because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they...


As reported last month, a fire department in Texas had a “bad day” at a house fire, with two firefighters suffering burns. Because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they improved their...


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As reported last month, a fire department in Texas had a “bad day” at a house fire, with two firefighters suffering burns. Because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they improved their operations and are sharing their story.

Our sincere thanks to Hutto Fire Rescue Chief Scott Kerwood and the firefighters and officers involved in this incident from Hutto, Taylor, Wilco EMS, Weir, Georgetown and Round Rock for their cooperation in sharing their close call.

The following recommendations were forwarded throughout Hutto Fire Rescue. Some can be implemented at the station level immediately while others require new policies and or changes in current policies.

1. Were Hutto Fire Rescue standard operating procedures (SOPs) being followed?

No. Not all of the Hutto Engine 1 crew members and Hutto Engine 2 crew members were equipped with portable radios. While Hutto Fire Rescue has several SOPs that apply to fireground operations, three procedures in particular that were not followed addressed the safety and survival of members.

These three, Emergency Scene Safety, Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) and Firefighter Self Survival, address the responsibility of any firefighter operating inside a working structure fire. In particular, each procedure addresses the equipment that must be carried by members as they operate in a structure fire, which includes a portable radio. Each riding position on each apparatus has a portable radio assigned to that seat. This allows an individual to have a radio for all operations. While some of the members of the two crews had picked up a radio before they began their operation, not all did so. In part, this was due to some members not having placed their equipment on the apparatus immediately when they reported to their shift.

 

Recommendation

As part of the daily equipment check, each rider must ensure that their riding seat radio is checked out and ready to go. This will ensure that on any incident they will have direct communication with command. All personnel must have their personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes a portable radio, at the assigned riding position at the start of the shift.

2. Did command fail to recognize the hazards that led to the injuries?

No. Immediately when command was notified of the acetylene cylinder in the garage, the interior crews were ordered to evacuate. At the same time, command observed the conditions of the fire deteriorating by exhibiting darker, greener and more forceful smoke exiting the building, which also led to the order to exit the building.

Three specific SOPs address command and the decisions that must be made anytime firefighters are put into harm’s way. These three procedures, Fireground Risk Management, Rules of Engagement and Situational Awareness Management, require command to constantly assess the environment to identify changing conditions.

 

Recommendation

All command personnel must continue to initiate proper size-up procedures and follow current SOPs. Additionally, they must continue to train to these procedures. It is evident by this incident that firefighters operate the way they train.

3. Did Hutto Fire Rescue PPE fail?

No. The PPE did the job it is designed to do; it limited the severity of the injuries. Upon investigation of the PPE of both firefighters, there was no visible damage to the coat or pants. As for the hood, there was discoloration in the area of the injuries. All coats and pants are specified to meet the current edition of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Firefighting and Proximity Firefighting. However, hoods, gloves and boots are not typically “spec’d out.” They are purchased from NFPA-compliant garments listed in a catalog. While the two hoods used by these members both met the requirements of NFPA 1971, they were different thicknesses and offered different levels of protection.

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