How the Lessons Learned at One Fire Prevented a Similar Tragedy at Another

Last month, we discussed the tragic double firefighter line-of-duty deaths that occurred in Colerain Township, OH, on April 4, 2008. Colerain Township Captain Robin Broxterman, 37, and Firefighter Brian Schira, 29, died in the line of duty after the floor...


Last month, we discussed the tragic double firefighter line-of-duty deaths that occurred in Colerain Township, OH, on April 4, 2008. Colerain Township Captain Robin Broxterman, 37, and Firefighter Brian Schira, 29, died in the line of duty after the floor they were on collapsed at a fire in a...


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"While pulling up to the scene, I thought to myself, where is the fire producing all the smoke?" said Firefighter Moog, a 16-year veteran who was due to be promoted to lieutenant in April. "I was unable to see any type of glow or flames. I grabbed the crosslay and stretched it to the front door. At the door, I finished placing on my mask. I was waiting for Lieutenant Johnson or Firefighter Koelsch to go through the front door to make an attack on the fire. Lieutenant Johnson met me at the front door after doing his 360-degree around the house. He stated that we were not going to go through the front door due to the fact that the fire was coming out the walkout basement and the main floor in the back."

Lieutenant Johnson and Firefighters Moog and Koelsch pulled the initial line and a second pre-connect to the rear of the structure. As Lieutenant Johnson directed a stream into the main floor through a patio door he had forced open, Firefighters Moog and Koelsch directed a stream into the walkout basement.

"Approximately 10 to 15 seconds after reaching the (basement) doors, the main floor collapsed into the basement blocking the doors," said Firefighter Moog. "I met up with Assistant Chief Schlosser and informed him that the floor had collapsed."

Ultimately, three 2½-inch handlines and an aerial master stream were placed in operation along with the initial two 1¾-inch pre-connects. Crews did not make headway on the fire until the gas shutoff was closed after great difficulty.

In addition to automatic aid from Noble Township, mutual aid was received from the South Richland Fire Department, the Highland Township Fire Department and the Delaware Township fire department. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

Final comments by Chief Goldfeder based on facts and discussions with those involved at both fires:

One of my favorite terms is a simple and old one: "Ya neva know." Clearly, in our business, we often do not know what we may encounter, no matter what the caller and dispatchers tell us. There are many situations that we as firefighters respond to that are not always predictable, so we have to constantly train on what may happen or could happen — and expect it. For example, when arriving on the scene of a fire involving a big-box warehouse, a factory or a high-rise building, size-up is not simple; rather, it is complex and requires significant time and resources. However, in most cases, when responding to and arriving at the single-family-dwelling fire, there are few complications related to our immediate ability to do a complete size-up, which should include a 360-degree walk-around to provide us with an accurate and clear picture of what we are dealing with.

Taking time understand what happened at another department's fire is one of the best ways to not repeat history. Be it the close calls we provide monthly in this column, line-of-duty-death reports from individual fire departments such as Colerain or the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention reports (that are more in-depth than ever), we have excellent opportunities to learn without repeating tragic results. (NIOSH reports are available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire.)

While "ya neva know" is applicable in some cases, conducting that full size-up on a single-family dwelling, including a 360, will provide you and your firefighters with that much more information that allows you "to know" just that much more. As firefighters, every bit of information in helping us best understand what we are dealing with is essential to our success. Take time to best understand what you are getting into, and what the conditions are before going in — and one of the best ways to do that is with a 360. There is rarely a need to operate "one dimensional."

WILLIAM GOLDFEDER, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com.