The Prince William County (VA) Department of Fire and Rescue published a comprehensive line of duty death report for Technician I Kyle R. Wilson on Saturday, January 26, 2008. Have your read it?
Technician I Wilson was the first line of duty death in the Department’s 41-year history. The Department shared the LODD Investigative Report to honor Kyle, and in an effort to reduce and prevent firefighter line of duty deaths at the local, region, state, and national levels.
Technician Kyle Robert Wilson was 24-years old and was born in Olney, Maryland. He grew up in Prince William County and graduated from Hylton High School and George Mason University. He was an avid baseball and softball player. Technician Wilson joined the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue on January 23, 2006.
- Technician Kyle Wilson died in the line of duty on April 16, 2007 while performing search and rescue operations at a house fire on Marsh Overlook Drive, located in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County.
On that day, Technician Wilson was part of the firefighter staffing on Tower 512 which responded to the house fire that was dispatched at 0603 hours. The Prince William County area was under a high wind advisory as a nor’eastern storm moved through the area. Sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts up to 48 mph were prevalent in the area at the time of the fire dispatch to Marsh Overlook Drive.
- Initial arriving units reported heavy fire on the exterior of two sides of the single family house and crews suspected that the occupants were still inside the house sleeping because of the early morning hour. A search of the upstairs bedroom commenced for the possible victims. A rapid and catastrophic change of fire and smoke conditions occurred in the interior of the house within minutes of Tower 512’s crew entering the structure.
- Technician Wilson became trapped and was unable to locate an immediate exit out of the hostile environment. Mayday radio transmissions were made by crews and by Technician Kyle Wilson of the life-threatening situation. Valiant and repeated rescue attempts to locate and remove Technician Wilson were made by the firefighting crews during extreme fire, heat and smoke conditions. Firefighters were forced from the structure as the house began to collapse on them and intense fire, heat and smoke conditions developed. Technician Wilson succumbed to the fire and the cause of death was reported by the medical examiner to be thermal and inhalation injuries.
The Department of Fire and Rescue immediately formed a multi-dimensional investigation team following the incident. The investigation team was comprised of five Department of Fire and Rescue uniform personnel and two external members from area fire departments. For eight months, the team thoroughly examined the events that occurred at the Marsh Overlook fire incident and identify the factors involved with the line of duty death of Technician I Kyle Wilson. The resulting report represents thousands of hours of effort to analyze fire and rescue operations and is a factual representation of the events that occurred. The report also provides a frame work for organizational level improvements.
- The major factors in the line of duty death of Technician I Wilson were determined to be:
- The initial arriving fire suppression force size.
- The size up of fire development and spread.
- The impact of high winds on fire development and spread.
- The large structure size and lightweight construction and materials.
- The rapid intervention and firefighter rescue efforts.
- The incident control and management.
- The Marsh Overlook fire incident was an immense fire fueled by extremely flammable building material products and a vicious wind. It was an environment where information gathering and decision making had to be performed in the time measurement of seconds. During the chain of events that occurred and under severe circumstances, fire and rescue personnel performed at exceptional levels.
- During the repeated attempts to reach and rescue Technician I Wilson, personnel displayed heroic efforts and jeopardized their own safety.
- The Department will never forget the sacrifice that Technician Wilson made in an attempt to ensure others were safe.
- By sharing the knowledge gained from this very tragic and painful incident, the Department will ensure his sacrifice was not in vain and hope that other fire and rescue departments can avoid another similar occurrence.
- It’s up to you to learn from this event and determine if there are lessons that can be applied to your organization and operations.
Resources and Report
- LODD Report Fact Sheet (23.9kb)
- LODD Investigative Report (9.16 mb)
- LODD Report Presentation (6.65 mb)
- LODD Report Basic House Model (Section 1) (1.87 mb)
- LODD Report Fire Model (Section 3) (5.16 mb)
- LODD Flashover Chart (60 kb)
- Prince William County (VA) Fire and Rescue Web Site, HERE
- NIOSH LODD REPORT: Career fire fighter dies in wind driven residential structure fire – Virginia, HERE
NIST Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions: Laboratory Experiments
- A series of experiments was conducted in our Large Fire Laboratory to examine the impact of wind control curtains and externally applied hose streams on a wind driven fire. The results from these experiments will allow us to better understand the fire dynamics within a structure and provide guidance as to the important measurements needed in the future experiments in a high-rise on Governor’s Island in New York City.
- Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions Report, HERE
- Reference Data HERE
Today’s incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past, requiring incident commanders and commanding officers to have increased technical knowledge of building construction with a heightened sensitivity to fire behavior, a focus on operational structural stability and considerations related to occupancy risk versus the occupancy type.
There is an immediate need for today’s emerging and operating command and company officers to increase their foundation of knowledge and insights related to the modern building occupancy, building construction and fire protection engineering and to adjust and modify traditional and conventional strategic operating profiles in order to safeguard companies, personnel and team compositions.
Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk, not occupancy type, and must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and tactical patience orchestrated in a manner that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy profile and accounts for presumptive fire behavior.
The dramatic changes in buildings and occupancies over the past ten years have resulted inadequate fire suppression methodologies based upon conventional practices that do not align with the manner in which we used to discern with a measured degree of predictability how buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions.
We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a predictable given duration of time; that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system and given an appropriately trained and skilled staff to perform the requisite evolutions, we can safely and effectively mitigate a structural fire situation in any given building type and occupancy.
Past operational experiences, both favorable and negative; gave us experiences that define and determine how the fireground is assessed, react and how we expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future; this formed the basis for the naturalistic decision-making process.
Implementing fundamentals of firefighting operations built upon nine decades of time-tested and experience-proven strategies and tactics continues to be the model of suppression operations. These same fundamental strategies continue to drive methodologies and curriculums in our current training programs and academies of instructions.
Are you aware of the defining changes in structural systems and support, the degree of compartmentation, the characteristics of materials and the magnitude of the fire-loading package in today’s buildings and occupancies? When was the last time you were out in the street with the companies, or spent some time doing a walk-through of construction or renovations site? Have you asked you commanding officers, division or battalion chief or your company officers for insights into what operational demands and risks are being imposed upon them while operating in the street and within the buildings, occupancies and structures that comprise your jurisdiction?
The structural anatomy, predictability of building performance under fire conditions, structural integrity and the extreme fire behavior; accelerated growth rate and intensively levels typically encountered in buildings of modern construction during initial and sustained fire suppression have given new meaning to the term combat fire engagement.
The rules for combat structural fire suppression have changed; but no one has told us. The IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section (SH&S) spent that past year refining and updating The IAFC Ten Rules of Structural Fire Engagement. First published in 2001, the original Ten Rules of Engagement for Structural Fire Fighting provided a set of principles and parameters that incident commanders, commanding and company officers could utilize and implement during incident operations to decrease operations risk, increase and The Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and The Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety will provide a crucial link towards integrating occupancy risk considerations with more educated and informed understandings of buildings, occupancies, and the behavior of fire with a structure.
It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations, although any seasoned command and company officer knows that at times. It’s what gets the job done under the most arduous and demanding of circumstances.
However, from a methodical and disciplined perspective; aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal-oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed strategic processes that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within known hostile structural fire environments.
The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. As a result, risk management must become fluid and integrated with intelligent tactical deployments and operations recognizing the risk problematically and not fatalistically, resulting in safety conscious strategies and tactics.
Today’s incident commanders need to think about the Predicative Strategic Process, refined Tactical Deployment Models integrating intelligent Structural Anatomy and Predictive Occupancy Profiling, while implementing Tactical Patience.
Think about the following;
- Read, comprehend and implement the new IAFC The Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and The Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety
- Take a tour of your response area, district, community or city.
- Take a good look around and begin to recognize the apparent or subtle changes that are affecting your incident operations; Take note and think about what needs to be adjusted, modified or changed in your operations.
- Read up on the latest research and technical literature on wind driven fires, extreme fire behavior, structural ability of engineered lumber systems, fire loading and suppression theory
- Take the time to personally read a series of the latest NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program LODD reports and relate them to your organizations operations and jurisdictional risks.
- Start thinking in terms of Occupancy Risks versus Occupancy Type and align your operations and deployments to match those risks
- Increase your situational awareness of today’s fireground and refine your strategic and tactical modeling
- Implement both Strategic and Tactical Patience; Slow down and allow the building to react and stabilize, for fire behavior to stop behaving badly and for your companies to increase survivability ratios while meeting the demands of conducting fire service operations
- Reprogram your assumptions and presumptions and options on building construction and firefighting operations; the buildings have changed, our firefighting has not; what are you going to do about that gap?
Without understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management, company-level supervision and task-level competencies … You are derelict and negligent and “not “everyone may be going home”.
It’s all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and the art and science of firefighting, equating to Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.
- Taking it to the Streets, Hosted By Christopher Naum on FireFighterNEtcast.com. Tactical Renaissance and The New Rules of Combat Engagement. September, 2010 Radio Program. Download HERE
- IAFC: The Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and The Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety, HERE and HERE
- NIOSH Publication No. 2010-153:NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters using Risk Management Principles at Structure Fires, HERE
- What’s on your Radar Screen; http://commandsafety.com/2010/07/whats-on-your-radar-screen/
- Reflecting upon these days of June; http://commandsafety.com/2010/06/reflecting-on-these-days-of-june/