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  1. #1
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    Default Training Officer Charged

    What do you think about the NY training officer charged in the death of a firefighter last year?

    Are the charges justified? Should others be charged as well, or instead? Have you managed live burns and how do you handle them?

    We'd like to hear your opinions.

    Read the full story at
    http://www.firehouse.com/training/ne..._Pcharges.html

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  2. #2
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    Default Was wondering if someone was going to discuss this....

    Last edited by jdm2267; 02-07-2002 at 09:48 PM.

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    "Moran concedes that several National Fire Protection Association safety guidelines were not followed during the fatal, live fire training exercise."

    "However, the Lairdsville firefighters were unaware of these NFPA standards, Moran said."

    "There may be proper guidelines or procedures but they're not known by these firefighters," he said.
    "Moran argues that these guidelines should have been distributed to fire departments by the state. "The guidelines should be given to every volunteer," he said. "They can't follow them if they can't find them."

    Hello??????? Gee, what are NFPA standards?? Gosh, where might one find these standards?

    This event was a tragedy, pure and simple. Should the Training Officer alone be held accountable? No way......why wasn't a Safety Officer assigned, who was Command? Who was freelancing upstairs by lighting another fire? Oh, forgot, these are all based on NFPA standards......the ones they've never heard of.

    A fine example of a cluster *uck that went horribly wrong and cost one man his life and two others almost followed.


    Sorry folks, but "It was a horrible accident" just doesn't cut it. No matter how badly everyone feels that it happened, the fact is, there is no such thing as an accident. Every event is predictable and preventable. When setting up poorly planned training such as this, the results are predictable and definately preventable.

    What's an even worse tragedy is that this won't be the last time this happens.

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    Thumbs down Some great "Training Officer"

    I hope these charges stick, and send a message to the many other "training" officers out there. What was this moron thinking????
    Obviously common sense had left him. There is nothing more important than training, but nothing so important in that training that we should lose firefighters over.

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    From the original FH story on 9/29/01

    ``The couch just started burning out of control and (the flames) went right up the stairs,'' said Bob Walsh, first assistant chief of the Westmoreland Fire Department, which hosted the training.

    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2001/ny_Psep26.html

    Well just duh...

    How do you kill a firefighter in training?

    Stupidity.

    And, unfortunately it won't be the last time this happens, it certainly isn't the first...

    Just another of many:

    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/summ200027.html
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

  6. #6
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    I don't believe that charges should be filed in this case (of course, I don't have all the details). But I do believe that, regardless of what NFPA says, common sense should have dictated better planning than what apparently was the case here. Seems like I remember hearing about this incident when it happened back in September. Someone at that time made the point that a) if you're going to have live fire, don't use live victims, and b) if you're going to use live victims, don't have live fire. It's just too much to keep track of and too much to go wrong. Keep the drill focused on one topic at a time. I've seen many drills go bad when, in the interest of "realism", the drill coordinator tries to add too many complex variables into it. At best, the drill is a clusterf*** and everyone misses the point the drill was about. At worst, someone gets hurt or killed. The point of a drill is to train on one particular skill or topic (in my opinion). If you want live fire training, then just do that...do a seperate drill for search and rescue. Inserting live victims into a live fire evolution was just wrong. Lighting a second fire simultaneously was also wrong. Any fire officer with any experience should realize that (especially in an acquired structure), you can lose control of the situation! In a heartbeat. Also, one has to wonder about the experience level of the victims. The deceased was only 19 years old. Seems I remember at the time that they said he had only 3 or 4 months with the department. Was he able to recognize that things were going bad and self-rescue before it got out of hand? I just wonder if putting someone with that little experience in that situation was a wise move. Just my 2 cents......

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    Senior Member firecat1524's Avatar
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    After reading, thinking, re-reading, and rethinking...I feel that if the T/O is convicted the charges should stick. As the Training Officer and one of the senior officers on the scene, he was responsible for the safety and well-being of every firefighter on this training scene. He acted in a negligent manner before hand in not knowing the applicable NFPA standards, and during by setting multiple fires and using live victims in an uncontrolled fire. The fact that the FD didn't back him up is not a factor in this case, unless he can prove that his superiors were a factor in this tragic accident...even then he is still responsible.

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    Several years ago, I was the lead investigator in a case where a fire department training class was utilizing an old school bus with metal plates welded over the windows and had the seats removed as a "smoke house". They placed an upholstered couch, several garbage bags of shredded paper, a truck tire, and two cut barrels with wood and a small amount of kerosene in the bus and set it on fire. They then sent recruits into the bus through the rear door and expected them to exit the front doors.

    Needless to say, the fire went to flashover rather quickly and trapped three recruit fire fighters inside. There were no chrged hoselines stretched, no rescue team, no EMS, no safety plan. In fact, the recruits essentially organized the rescue plan. The end result was two permanently disabled fire fighters. One of them had the turnout gear burned completely off his body.

    The reconstruction of the incident was done at NIST who estimated that the heat flux was about three times the maximum that the turnout gear would be expected to survive.

    We presented the case to a Grand Jury on the charges of attempted murder and arson. The Grand Jury elected not to indict but instead issued a presentment condemning NJ's system of fire training and calling for an overhaul. The rules regarding instructor training and live burn exercises we have today is a direct result of that Grand Jury's decision. I wrote an article in Fire Engineering about the case..March 1996 issue I think.

    I was disappointed that the Grand Jury did not indict in my case. I am delighted that the NY Grand Jury had the courage to indict in their case. Once you wear the title "Instructor" accidents like this are inexcusable. You have the time to plan out an exercise to eliminate surprises. NFPA 1403 is so clear on the execution of a live fire training drill in an acquired structure that you cannot go wrong if you follow it. The fire service must develop the attitude that we refuse to blindly accept deaths and serious injuries in training exercises.

    My guess would be that you should watch Harry Carter's web site. I am sure that my friend, the good Dr. Carter (who perhaps is the most brilliant fire service educator I have ever met) will have something to say about this one.

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    George, may I say excellent post!!!

    I stuck my neck out on a previous post some time ago and stated that stupidity and recklessness were frequent causes of firefighter fatalities, and this only reinforces my opinion.

    As for not being aware of the relevant NFPA standards, I find this comment so incredibly asinine it's almost laughable. I bet they can quote any NFPA standard dealing with truck specs, or any other standard relating to the various toys used in the fire service......yet they weren't aware there were standards on how to run live burn training sessions? Or standards on Incident Safety? Or standards on Incident Command and accountability? Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the same should apply here.

    Actually, the more I think about it, I seem to remember the thread I mentioned earlier dealt with NFPA standards, and how some felt they were too restrictive and paternalistic.

    Should these charges stick and go to trial, we will all see exactly what teeth NFPA standards have. No, they are not law......they are only recommendations and guidelines.......however, they have been "recommended" based on some of the most experienced consultants available, and usually come about because of an incident such as this. Personally I don't envy someone on the stand trying to justify why I didn't ensure training was to these standards. His excuse of not knowing they existed will probably last 30 seconds if he's lucky.

  10. #10
    Senior Member shammrock54's Avatar
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    With training fires everyone must always remember its FIRE and just because we start it does not deminish the danger. incidents like this are horrible, but bound to happen to someone, i only hope that the lessons learned the hard way NY are taken to heart by the rest of us! as in any incident were FF's are hurt/killed we must not just block out their loss but make it our mission to see that we try to keep their fate from befalling others!
    Member IACOJ & IACOJ EMS Bureau
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    As always these are strictly my own opinions and views

  11. #11
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    Don't mean to steal your thunder LadyCapn, but my personal obsevation is that the vast majority of firefighter fireground trauma deaths are because of stupidity or recklessness (murder such as 9/11 not withstanding). The point could even be further made that most firefighter medical related deaths fall along the same lines.

    As well, NFPA standards really don't mean spit in this case. They're just a "document that someone should have followed," giving more teeth to the legal side of the argument. They'll be throwing a bunch of others in there as well. 1910.134 (resp. standard for 2in/2 out) will probably be a big one.

    From the facts as presented here on FH.COM, it seems that the person/people in charge of this incident was stupid and careless, plain and simple and there really just ain't no law or standard about that.
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by mongofire_99
    As well, NFPA standards really don't mean spit in this case. They're just a "document that someone should have followed," giving more teeth to the legal side of the argument. They'll be throwing a bunch of others in there as well. 1910.134 (resp. standard for 2in/2 out) will probably be a big one.

    From the facts as presented here on FH.COM, it seems that the person/people in charge of this incident was stupid and careless, plain and simple and there really just ain't no law or standard about that.
    Mongo, not so fast. It is true that these documents are not law, but NFPA 1403 is a Standard. And the NFPA is a world-wide, recognized leader in the field of fire protection. These are the only standards out there today. It will be virtually impossible to claim ignorance of them. And ignoring standards like that goes a long way toproving criminal reckelessness.

    And, lady, don't go hitching your wagons to me! I told you back then that your attitude about fire fighter deaths was ignorant. While training deaths are can not be tolerated, the majority of FF deaths are tragedies. Can some of them be prevented? Probably, but to consider them the product of stupidity is an insult to the many brave sols who have given their lives for this job.

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    I'm not trying to be too fast and personally I don't think it would be a reasonable excuse, but to be perfectly honest, I think one could claim ignorance of the existence of NFPA 1403 and make a reasonable arguement of it if there is no state or local guideline on live burns to reference it.

    NFPA is a private nonprofit independent organization that charges for its services and its "standards."

    If the state doesn't mention it, I can imagine the line of questioning to go like this...

    "Mr. Jones, did you know that NFPA has a standard for live fire evolutions?"

    "No."

    "Why not?"

    "Well, frankly they charge for their standards and we can't afford them. Nobody told us we needed to follow any standard and the "

    "What about NFPA 1901? A search of your residence turned up a copy of that."

    "Yes, we're looking at buying a new apparatus and one of the manufacturers gave us a copy of it, otherwise we wouldn't have it."

    And for the defense to hold this position until somebody slipped (if they knew) or the prosecution gave up on this path.

    What they did sounds stupid. In my personal opinion, and with what has been reported here, there is no excuse and someone should be held responsible.

    And I know that you hit at LadyCapn, and I agree with you that FF deaths are tragedies, but they are tragedies caused, I believe for the most part and in the vast majority of cases, because somebody did something stupid (it doesn't have to be the person that was killed fault).

    A door wasn't opened to give a second means of egress, they went in without a hose line, no accountability and the list goes on and on.

    Very rare is the case where everything was done like it was supposed to be and somebody ended up dead.
    It's only my opinion. I do not speak for any group or organization I belong to or associate with or people I know - especially my employer. If you like it, we can share it, you don't have to give me credit. If you don't, we are allowed to disagree too (but be ready to be challenged, you may be on to something I'm not). That's what makes America great!

  14. #14
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    Default re:

    I agree whole-heartedly with George.

    The argument can be made that NFPA is just a set of guidelines and not law, cuz it's true. You can make any argument you want. However, just like common sense suggests to most of us that the training scenario was unsafe, it should also scream at us that failing to follow a widely recognized standard isn't valid. Even if there aren't any state or local guidelines/laws to reference NFPA, it is still a national standard. Claiming ignorance is a defense, but it is so very weak.

    NFPA is the industry standard, and we should all be held to that standard. I'm sure people will comment on how if you have the cash, you too can add your own two cents to NFPA... and how it might be somewhat biased...etc. One can also point out that in many cases, deviation from NFPA isn't necessarily a bad thing, and that it's ok to pick and choose what you want to follow. Yeah, changing the layout of your aerial device's controls to a configuration that doesn't conform to NFPA can be done. But will it kill someone? Probably not. Should it play a role in the death of a firefighter though, look out.

    When someone is critically injured or dies, the above arguments just aren't good or strong enough. The person in charge of training--BY VIRTUE OF HIS/HER POSITION--MUST be aware of the standards for conducting said training. To say that this constitutes negligence is a major understatement. If the defendant wasn't the one in charge, then he shouldn't be in the hot seat. I can't tell who should be at fault from that department here. But someone needs to be in the hot seat here if Baird wasn't the one in charge. I'm not arguing Baird is a criminal. I am arguing that not following safety recommendations that result in deaths and injuries IS criminal behavior. Someone needs to be accountable in this siuation. Baird may be the scapegoat here. I don't have enough information to come form an opinion on that point.

    "The death and injuries of the other firefighters is definitely a tragedy and I think the prosecution is definitely a tragedy. It serves no purpose." - Bairds Lawyer
    I strongly disagree with this. The person in charge accepts the responsibility to provide training in accordance with established standards. The primary concern is always firefighter safety. What purpose would prosecution serve? How about to reinforce the notion that half-assed trainings that jeopordize lives will never be acceptable practice, and that freelancing training sessions without regard to safety will not be tolerated?

    It is silly for anyone to think that fire departments aren't held to NFPA standards, whether they can afford to purchase copies, aren't aware of them, or whatnot. You want to play the game? Then play by the rules suggested by the industry standard.
    Last edited by Resq14; 02-08-2002 at 02:49 AM.

  15. #15
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    The responsibility lies TOTALLY with the commissioners and Chief of the fire department involved. The training instructor SHOULD have been aware of live-burn guidelines but he wasn't - The hierarchy of this fire department are at fault for that and are ultimately responsible.

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    Exclamation

    I don't think there is a simple answer here. Should they have known about NFPA standards? Yes. Should someone be held accountable? Yes. Who? Good question.

    Was the training officer a certified fire instructor? Did the department have an SOP that required the training officer to be an instructor and/or to follow NFPA standards? Were the firefighters killed trained through certification classes?

    In my neck of the woods, if you haven't completed your basic classes for entry level firefighter you don't go into a live burn. You can't run a live burn with just one training officer and they must be certified. Strict safety rules are adhered to.

    What I'm saying is that if the guy was a trained instructor he'd have had to be aware of the standards. Why would a department choose not to use someone certified and aware of safety standards? That would mean that not only is the instructor responsible, but so are the individuals that let him put their people in that position.

    Prosecute? I think it sends a good message - but I don't think that a jail term will help - I'd say that community service - through proper education and training - to train others would be a better sentance for all. Make something good come out of this.
    Susan Lounsbury
    Winston-Salem Rescue Squad
    Griffith Volunteer FD

  17. #17
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    George the training incident to which you refer was on of the things that lead to all the training standards that we have today. Saying that he did not know about such things I have to ask "Does this officer ever read any trade periodicals".
    If this was a Fire District, with commissioners, the chief is not the one who spends the tax $$$. He can ask the commissioners to purchase this or that, but if 3 say "NO" it ain't gonna happen. In NYS the Board of Fire Commissioners control the tax money. They are elected by the tax payer to 5 year terms, and you only have to be a resident of the fire district to run for the position. Maybe there is a flaw in the system, I don't know.

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    Exclamation More are responsible!

    We often train using live fire and controlled burns within structures. This is the only effective way to train interior firefighters and to give new members the opportunity to decide whether they want to fight fire or not. However, knowing that many of the people involved in this type of training are often new and inexperienced safety is extremely important.

    It appears that the simplest of safety precautions were not employed in this live fire training. Experienced safety teams on each floor with charged hoselines that can be used to quickly suppress the fire and protect the training participants is essential for a safe operation.

    Only one officer has been charged with manslaughter and assault. More than one officer and senior firefighters acted irresponsibly and contributed to the injuries and loss of life. The chief officer or OIC at the training is ultimately resposible but every participant has some responsibility to see that the operation is as safe as possible.

  19. #19
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    First of all, I absolutely agree with the basic message of all the posts on here - that this was very, very stupid. It was a tragedy. Someone should be held accountable.

    Now, I have a question for everyone. In your experience with live burns, how many of you have done something stupid? How many of you have not been in accordance with NFPA Regs (even just a little bit), whether knowingly or simply not knowing? How many of you have been in situations that, with one twist, could have turned tragic. How many of you have been in a situation that seemed like it was fine at the time, but, looking back, could have gone terribly wrong?

    What happened in Lairdsville was probably done many times before. What's even scarier, is that it's probably been done somewhere in the U.S. since.

    I absolutely am not trying to justify what was done in this situation. What I am getting at is that we need to document close calls. In almost every tragedy, something similar undoubtedly happened in the past, without the tragic results. If the past occurrence wasn't documented, no one knows about it. It most likely gets swept under the rug, because there were no tragic consequences.

    Just something to think about.

    Stay Safe

  20. #20
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Should someone be held responsible in a court of law (whether the Training Officer of Chief? Yes, recklesness caused injury and death.

    Should the charge be second-degree manslaughter? I have mixed feelings on this one. Part of me thinks that is too severe of a charge, but then I say "well, someone did die". Is there another charge that would be more suitable than 2nd degree manslaughter?

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