The victims were members of a crew of four fire fighters operating a hose line protecting a firewall in an attempt to contain the fire to the burning office area and keep it from spreading into the production and warehouse areas. The captain attempted to radio for assistance as the conditions deteriorated but fire fighters on the outside did not initially hear his Mayday. Once it was realized that the crew was in trouble, multiple rescue attempts were made into the burning warehouse in an effort to reach the trapped crew as conditions deteriorated further.
Three members of a rapid intervention team (RIT) were hurt rescuing the injured captain. One firefighter was located and removed during the fifth rescue attempt. The second firefighter could not be reached until the fire was brought under control. The fourth crew member had safely exited the burning warehouse prior to the deteriorating conditions that trapped his fellow crew members.
Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include radio communication problems (unintelligible transmissions in and out of the fire structure that may have led to misunderstanding of operational fireground communications), inadequate size up and incomplete pre-plan information, a deep-seated fire burning within the floor of the office area that was able to spread into the production and warehouse facility, the procedures used in which operational modes were repeatedly changed from offensive to defensive, lack of crew integrity at a critical moment in the event, and weather which restricted fireground visibility.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
- Ensure that detailed pre-incident plan information is collected and available when needed, especially in high risk structures
- Limit interior offensive operations in well-involved structures that are not equipped with sprinkler systems and where there are no known civilians in need of rescue
- 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
- Ensure that Rapid Intervention Crews (RIC) / Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT) have at least one charged hose line in place before entering hazardous environments for rescue operations
- Ensure that the incident commander establishes the incident command post in an area that provides a good visual view of the fire building and enhances overall fireground communication
- Ensure that crew integrity is maintained during fire suppression operations
- Encourage local building code authorities to adopt code requirements for automatic protection (sprinkler) systems in buildings with heavy fire loads.
Floor Collapse On March 4, 2002, a 22-year-old male career fire fighter was injured and subsequently died and a 25-year-old male Captain was injured when the floor collapsed while they were fighting a residential fire.
The Captain was transported by ambulance to an area hospital where he was admitted overnight for first- and second-degree burns. The victim was conscious and was transported by medical helicopter to a State medical center where he died 2 days later.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should;
- Ensure that each Incident Commander conducts a size-up of the incident before initiating fire-fighting efforts, after command is transferred, and continually evaluates the risk versus gain during operations at an incident
- Ensure fire fighters are trained to recognize the dangers of searching above a fire
- Ensure that an Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed
- Ensure that ventilation is closely coordinated with fire attack
- Ensure that a Rapid Intervention Team is established and in position immediately upon arrival
- Ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to operate safely and effectively
Floor Collapse On March 8, 2001, a 38-year-old male career fire fighter fell through the floor while fighting a structure fire, and died 12 days later from his injuries. At 1231 hours, Central Dispatch notified the career department of a structure fire with reports of the occupants still inside. The Assistant Chief arrived on the scene along with Engine 70 and assumed Incident Command (IC).