1. #1
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    Exclamation Osceola County Fla--1 Year Later--Training Lt to lose Job over Fatal Accident

    Hot off the presses! I was going to post this on the original thread bbut thought it may go unread. So I have included the link to the original thread and discussion as well as this latest breaking story.
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    Orlando Sentinel

    Fire lieutenant to lose job

    By Willoughby Mariano | Sentinel Staff Writer
    Posted August 20, 2003

    KISSIMMEE -- More than a year after two Osceola County firefighters died in a training accident, county officials intend to fire the lieutenant in charge, saying he was to blame for the tragic turn of events.

    Fire Rescue Training Officer John Simpson is guilty of several "derelictions" of duty, including "incompetence" and "safety violations," according to an Aug. 15 letter written by Kevin Yelvington, the Fire Department's deputy chief of administration.

    "Ensuing investigations have confirmed that this live fire training, for which you were ultimately responsible by virtue of your office and your duties on scene, did not comply with NFPA Standard 1403," a regulation created by the National Fire Protection Association that sets safety standards for these exercises, the letter states.

    Firefighter union leaders vowed to fight the termination proceedings, saying investigations cited multiple causes for the deadly July 30, 2002, flashover that led to the deaths of rookie firefighter Dallas Begg, 20, and Lt. John Mickel, 32. Simpson is not to blame for their deaths, they said.

    "This came out of nowhere. It's ridiculous. It's unjust," said Todd Smith, president of the Osceola Professional Firefighters Local 3284.

    "I hate to say this, but the fire chief is who's ultimately in charge of the Fire Department, not any one of the individuals," Smith said.

    Simpson is on paid suspension with leave and must respond to Yelvington's letter by noon Friday. His yearly salary is $42,527. He did not return calls seeking comment.

    County spokeswoman Twis Hoang also would not comment, saying it is against county policy to speak publicly on personnel matters.

    Authorities ruled Mickel and Begg died of thermal burns and smoke inhalation suffered in a flashover -- the superheated flame that burst forth shortly after another firefighter broke a window in a small bedroom where the fire was set. Mickel and Begg were inside searching for a training dummy.

    The department used materials, including a foam mattress, that violated NFPA standards, the State Fire Marshal's Office ruled in November. Carpet throughout the 1,600-square-foot block house also had urethane-foam padding that may have contributed to the deadly fire.

    The accident set off a shakeup at the beleaguered Osceola County Fire Rescue. Former Chief Don Adams, who was in charge during the deaths and hired Simpson in February 2001 as a training lieutenant, resigned later that year.

    In the aftermath, Simpson took on responsibilities unrelated to fire training, including arranging for the moves of two fire stations into temporary buildings. County officials say that since the accident, Simpson has not performed the duties for which he was hired, though union officials said he has managed some training sessions.

    Despite the deaths, new Chief Frank Montes de Oca emphasized in June that he thinks live fire training in abandoned buildings is crucial to firefighter education.

    The risks involved with live fire exercises flared up again this month. A man training to become a Miami-Dade County firefighter died Aug. 8 in an accident at Port Everglades. The training session simulated a ship fire. Four other trainees received minor injuries.

    Willoughby Mariano can be reached at wmariano@orlandosentinel.com or 407-931-5944
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    Default Thanks for keeping up with it Captstan

    County wants to fire training officer
    21 Aug 2003
    By Sylvia L. Oliande News-Gazette Staff Writer
    Just more than a year after two Osceola County firefighters were killed while participating in a multiagency live fire training exercise, the lieutenant in charge of the operation is facing termination.

    According to an Aug. 15 letter written by Deputy Chief Kevin Yelvington to Lt. John Simpson, the training officer violated three provisions of the county’s personnel policies and procedures: safety violations, abuse or violation of county policies, and incompetence.

    The letter states that investigations into the fire confirmed that the training exercise held on July 30, 2002, did not comply with national standards.

    Lt. John Mickel, 32, and rookie firefighter Dallas Begg, 20, died after getting caught in a flashover that ignited in an empty home at the former Florida Bible College in Poinciana.

    Simpson, who was put on paid leave pending the determination of whether he will be fired, has until noon Friday to respond to the letter. The lieutenant could not be reached for comment, but firefighters union officials said they plan to fight.

    Todd Smith, president of the Osceola County Professional Firefighters Local 3284, said the timing of the termination is suspect and unfair.

    Smith said the state and federal agencies investigating the fatal training exercise found several causes for the incident and concluded that mistakes were made, but they did not indicate that any one person was at fault.

    He also said the county had ample time over the last year to take action against Simpson and noted that none of the three men who oversaw the fire rescue division before Fire Chief Frank Montes de Oca came on board took action.

    “I don’t think there’s any disciplinary action necessary (and) if there was, it should have been done three fire chiefs before. Don Adams should have done it if it had to be done,” he said of the former fire chief who resigned several months after the incident.

    According to the letter, Simpson asked to be reassigned to other duties within the department after the incident, and for more than a year he had “not performed any of the duties for which you were hired.”

    County Manager Ed Hunzeker said Simpson had been working on special projects and those are now completed.

    “He’s worked himself out of a job,” Hunzeker said.

    Smith said that Simpson managed some training sessions in the last year and that the lieutenant had been verbally negotiating with department officials for several months before he received the letter to go back into the field as a firefighter.

    When asked about whether those talks took place, county Public Safety Division Administrator Tad Stone said he does not comment on personnel matters, especially those that are still pending.

    The state fire marshal’s office determined that Mickel and Begg, who were acting as the rescue crew during the training, died of burns and smoke inhalation as a result of a flashover, a condition that occurs when the air is ignited when smoke is heated to an estimated 1,500 degrees.

    Authorities said an excessive amount of fuel was used on the fire for the size of the bedroom, including a foam mattress, two pallets, a hollow-core door, scraps of wood and some hay.

    Following its investigation, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health gave the county a list of suggestions for future live fire training sessions, including improving communication and using thermal imaging cameras.

    Yelvington’s letter states that as part of a contract with the property owner, live training exercises were to comply with the National Fire Protection Association Standard 1403.

    “You were very well aware of this requirement based on your extensive participation in the negotiation and drafting of this contract,” he wrote to Simpson.

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    I just finished reading the story on firehouse.com related to this topic. IMHO, here are the key sentences:

    Yelvington’s letter states that as part of a contract with the property owner, live training exercises were to comply with the National Fire Protection Association Standard 1403.

    “You were very well aware of this requirement based on your extensive participation in the negotiation and drafting of this contract,” he wrote to Simpson.
    If this is true, this is game, set, match. He is responsible for the dseaths of these men and he should not be afforded the privelege of being a fire fighter.

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    I must agree with my NJ colleague on this one. ANY violation of the standards set forth by NFPA 1403, particularly since they resulted in fatalities...must be dealt with accordingly.

    This officer's failure to comply is sufficient ground for termination of employment. You must follow the 1403 standards EXACTLY as published. Of course, others may be equally at fault here.....as apparently, no one attempted to abort the exercise.
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    Default NJFFSA16 speaks the truth

    Now you have said something important
    Of course, others may be equally at fault here.....as apparently, no one attempted to abort the exercise.

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    George.....I go out of town to ICHIEFs for 4 days and you beat me to the punch.... I also read the article on FH.com and that jumped out at me. But....I also agree that others may be responsible. If he was in charge and there was a Safety Officer and things were not being done correctly then the Safety Officer should have stepped in.

    Perhaps other heads may roll over this unfortunate event????
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    Default I am disclosing, time to dredge up so no one forgets

    That training officer got his job back with OCFR after arbitration. Prehaps not as a training officer, but back on the payroll as a firefighter.

    Weird the media didn't write about that, or is it?

    I have nothing against the training officer personally only his actions and inaction. I still drive by that training facility the young men perished in every morning and I still think about them and their families and their brothers and their sisters that miss them and cry for the loss, some daily, others not quite as often.

    I don't really see a whole lot of training changes although the whole department other than training has been revamped. Has anything changed? Only time will tell, only time...

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    For those unfamiliar with the case....This is a link to the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI) Investigative Narrative report.

    Case 26-02-3753


    lilsisterosceol...Thank you for the update.
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    Angry This is what I was talking about as far as change

    I said time would tell, it didn't take a long time did it? Is it just the nature of the beast? I don't want to be an armchair cowgirl, but again, standards not followed.

    Osceola fire training criticized
    The department violated safety standards when two recruits were engulfed in flames, report says.

    By April Hunt | Sentinel Staff Writer
    Posted March 31, 2004


    KISSIMMEE -- Two Osceola County firefighter recruits were engulfed in flames during a recent training exercise that failed to follow national standards the county adopted after two firefighters were killed in a 2002 training accident.

    Their equipment bore the brunt of the intense burst of heat, or flashback, from a vehicle ignited in the Feb. 18 exercise. Firefighter Mitc#### McCommon suffered minor burns to his right ear and hand that did not require medical attention. Firefighter Ney Norwood, who like McCommon was a trainee on the day of the accident, was not injured. Both men now work full-time for the county.

    A preliminary report of an internal investigation released Tuesday found the county violated National Fire Protection Association standards by allowing students to light the vehicle used in the exercise at the Central Florida Fire Academy in south Orlando.

    The department violated those standards and its own policies with students and trainers who were not in full protective gear when the fire was started from liquid propane in a hose, similar to a backyard grill. A final report on the incident is expected next week.

    "With the history that this department has, they want to be looking at things a little more closely," said Robert Duval, senior fire investigator for NFPA. "They would want to be more careful."

    The county has revamped the Fire Department since rookie firefighter Dallas Begg, 20, and fire Lt. John Mickel, 32, were victims of a superheated burst called a flashover in a vacant building being used for training July 30, 2002.

    The State Fire Marshal's Office later ruled a series of blunders led to their deaths, including the use of a foam mattress that violated NFPA standards that county officials said they had been following.

    The county later formally adopted those standards. Public Safety Director Tad Stone also reorganized the Fire Department so that instead of one training officer, the county now has one training chief and three training officers. Two more training officers are slated to be among the 82 new employees added to the 250-person department.

    The department now holds six-week orientations at the fire academy, instead of the two-week, mostly on-the-job training it offered when Begg joined the department.

    The department also has not held a training fire anywhere but at the fire academy, where conditions are more easily controlled than in "acquired structures," such as vacant buildings.

    On Tuesday, county fire Chief Frank Montes de Oca, who took over the department as the restructuring was under way, said the county will need to do more.

    "Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job," the chief said. "Whether it's controlled or not, it can burn you. We need to look at this from a systematic perspective and make whatever adjustments we need to make."

    One immediate change will be the reporting of all incidents to the department heads. Montes de Oca did not learn the full extent of the incident until March 2, when he ordered Division Chief Diane Blemberg to investigate.

    At the time, he found out by checking out the equipment, which included a mottled and discolored face shield and scorched front helmet, indicative of the intense heat.

    The state Fire Marshal's Office also will conduct an administrative investigation. Spokeswoman Nina Banister said the review most likely will include reviewing the department's investigation and talking with officials since it is "not that often" that firefighters are injured during training.

    "A fire is unpredictable. That's why there are standards, to control as many factors as possible," she said.

    The fire-protection association said statistics for 2002, the most recent year available, show there were 7,600 injuries during training exercises, or about 9 percent of all injuries reported by firefighters that year.

    The figures include injuries from fire and equipment as well as falls and other problems.

    Duval, of the National Fire Protection Association, said the standards were developed to err on the side of caution to try to make training and firefighting safer.

    When accidents happen in training, he said, it is often because those procedures weren't followed or other corners were cut.

    "You can never play catch-up with a fire," he said.
    Last edited by lilsisterosceol; 03-31-2004 at 08:48 PM.

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    Are we just doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past?

    Apparently, the deaths of young firefighters did not serve as a wake up call. Shame on everyone!
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    I read it....and was waiting for someone else to jump on it... It seems that killing two (2) firefighters in a training exercise did not quite open up the eyes of the administration. Perhaps they wanted to get a better look so they tried it again! PATHETIC!
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    Unhappy There appears to be more to the story than originally reported

    It appears there is more to the story that has not been reported. It is a time for questions and answers.

    Is Admin covering for their own inequities?????

    Again you are both so accurate about the bottom line and where the buck should stop.

    We have not read or heard the truth yet....but we all know the truth always comes out. Perhaps not in our timing, but the truth is impossible to hide.

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    Osceola fire training criticized The department violated safety standards when two recruits were engulfed in flames, report says.

    Were the deaths of firefighter Dallas Begg, 20, and fire Lt. John Mickel, 32 completely in vain? NJ, I think this is beyond a mistake. It is a complete disgregard for the safety of the firefighters. Thankfully, this time the firefighters made it out with minor injuries. I really do not understand why when the standards are there for the safety and protection of the firefighters, they are ignored.

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    Default Re: There appears to be more to the story than originally reported

    Originally posted by lilsisterosceol
    It appears there is more to the story that has not been reported.
    Enlighten us. (With whatever you can safely report)

    Cheffie....apparently, they think NFPA 1403 is just kindling material. Maybe they should try reading it!
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    Default Pardon me for saying this, but I thought it all along

    NFPA as far as I can tell are the number one organization that really care about firefighters. I know what they say about the brotherhood and I have nothing against that, I just don't think it protects you except directly with love and emotion, not education and science. I am proud of each of you and what you do for this nation just as I am proud of my own military son and it is difficult to criticize in any way shape or form.

    My fear is NFPA can do all the science, investigation and recommendations it is well known and gifted to do and there will continue to be leadership that goes directly against what they have been taught, yet as in the case of our Lt and FF no one is truly held accountable, what a crying shame. Not to say that there are no other jobs in the world where people aren't held accountable, but it appears that the very protection you should and do have as a safety guardian of this nation is the same one that allows people to be excused for turning their backs on their very own because they can.

    The trainers say they did nothing wrong...I believe them

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    I sit here and shake my head. The first thought that came to mind is apparently these guys are trying to play the odds - like Vegas Odds. And those aren't great at the best of times. Sort of "best 2 out of 3" perhaps??
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    Unhappy Not exactly the rest of the story, but an update of sorts

    Safety must come first in fire training
    Our position: The county fire department still needs more work to strengthen its ranks.



    A February fire training exercise provides a glimpse into the evolution of Osceola County’s fire service.

    It’s troubling that national standards the county adopted after two firefighters were killed in a 2002 training accident were not followed during the Feb. 18 exercise, according to an internal investigation. There is no room for even minor errors when dealing with the unpredictable danger of fire training.

    Two recruits were engulfed in flames and their equipment bore the brunt of the intense burst of heat. One suffered minor burns, but neither sought medical treatment.

    While no one was seriously injured, safety must always be a top priority of the department.

    The county revamped the fire department since rookie firefighter Dallas Begg, 20, and fire Lt. John Mickel, 32, were victims of a flashover burst of heat while training in a vacant building nearly two years ago. The State Fire Marshal’s Office later ruled a series of blunders led to their deaths, including the use of a foam mattress that violated National Fire Protection Association standards that officials said they had been following.

    That’s why it is amazing that NFPA standards were not followed when 20 recruits were being trained at the Central Florida Fire Academy in Orlando. Someone should have halted operations during the February training session because there was a deviation in the procedures checklist. As a result of the mishap, the county is modifying some of its procedures —including speeding up reports to top administrators. It took more than a week for word of what happened during the exercise to reach Chief Frank Montes de Oca Jr.

    Bulking up its training staff during the current budget was a major step on the road to improved safety. Plans called for about 82 new employees to be added to the 250-person department during the current budget cycle — including 72 paid firefighters.

    The hiring, in cadres of about 20, should be completed by midsummer, fire officials said. That would give the county enough paid, professional firefighters to staff all its stations by July or August. Officials say there is still a role for the approximately 25 volunteer firefighters who remain active in the department.

    The tragedy in 2002 taught the department a painful lesson about the importance of putting training in the hands of skilled and experienced people. The most recent incident is a reminder that the trainers have to be forceful to ensure that safety measures are implemented and followed by everyone at all times. That’s a key step toward a first-class department.

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    Exclamation I hope this is my last post about training accidents in Osceola County

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/...news-headlines
    Firefighters face discipline for errors
    Two Osceola lieutenants were rebuked and another may be suspended for training-rule breaches that injured one.
    By April Hunt
    Sentinel Staff Writer

    April 21, 2004

    KISSIMMEE -- One Osceola County fire-training officer faces suspension and two others have been reprimanded for not following national standards during a training exercise earlier this year that left one trainee with minor injuries after he and another were engulfed in flames.

    It is the first disciplinary action in the Fire Department since the county tried last year to fire the training officer blamed for the training accident in 2002 that left two firefighters dead. That lieutenant was later transferred to a desk job.

    Public-safety officials said their response, including a proposed one-day suspension for one of the officers and an ongoing review of procedures, will ensure that future live-fire training will be safe. But before the next scheduled training for new hires next month, they must come up with a plan that explains exactly how they will make sure that happens.

    "We are making a statement here about our priorities," said Fire Chief Frank Montes de Oca. "We are going to do everything humanly possible to make sure we have the safest situations possible for our firefighters."

    Montes de Oca and Public Safety director Tad Stone are developing a plan that adjusts procedures. Among items being considered are adding more officers to training programs, identifying training officers through special gear and reducing the trainer-student ratio.

    The State Fire Marshal's Office is continuing its administrative investigation of the Feb. 18 incident. County Manager Ed Hunzeker also is reviewing the issue and said he would not sign off on more training until a plan is in place that also addresses how much training each instructor must receive before taking charge in the field.

    County commissioners have even talked of requiring Montes de Oca and Stone to be present during training so they are directly responsible if something else goes wrong.

    "There is no excuse to let something happen and call it an accident," Commission Chairman Ken Shipley said. "There is no accident with the awareness that we have of what can go wrong."

    The county adopted National Fire Protection Association standards after rookie Dallas Begg, 20, and Lt. John Mickel, 32, died in a superheated burst of flame called a flashover in a vacant building being used for training on July 30, 2002.

    The State Fire Marshal's Office later ruled that a series of blunders led to their deaths, including the use of a foam mattress in the fire, which violated the NFPA standards that the county said it had been following.

    An internal investigation found those regulations were again violated in the Feb. 18 exercise at the Central Florida Fire Academy in south Orlando. Two recruits were engulfed in flames, and their equipment bore the brunt of the intense burst of heat. One suffered minor burns, but neither sought medical treatment.

    Violations there included allowing students to light the training fire and not ensuring that all trainers and students wore full protective gear when liquid propane was used to ignite a car fire.

    Lt. Charles Shoemake, as lead instructor, faces a one-day suspension for his role, according to county documents. He has until the end of work today to respond to the recommendation.

    The county also put a written reprimand in the file of Lt. Scott Kilmer, who was identified as not wearing the proper gear. Lt. David Langston was disciplined with a verbal warning.

    It is the first warning to any of the men, who were promoted after the 2002 deaths as a way to bulk up the department's training.

    April Hunt can be reached

    at ahunt@orlandosentinel.com

    or 407-931-5940.

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    Lt. Charles Shoemake, as lead instructor, faces a one-day suspension for his role, according to county documents.
    ...two others have been reprimanded for not following national standards...
    This is a slap on the wrist. This is not punishment. The officials in this county should be ashamed of their inaction in this matter. I can not believe that this is the disciplinary action that will take place.
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    Default NJFFSA16, COULD IT BE?

    Isn't the issue of accountability the harvest of what is sown?

    NJFFSA16, I am really confused because some of the folk involved here would never lead the trainees without strictly following NFPA adopted standard. I still don't believe we know the whole story here.

    As you say, if a slap on the hand is the worst that could happen for putting others in danger, the department should start out sourcing training cause it is obvious OCFR can't handle it. Not even after tragedy, that sux!
    Last edited by lilsisterosceol; 04-22-2004 at 02:34 PM.

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    Default Finally something postive 3 years later

    Fallen Firefighters

    I hope the trend stays positive.

    Stay safe,

    lil

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    I hadn't read this thread until now, but one other sentance leaps out at me -
    Authorities ruled Mickel and Begg died of thermal burns and smoke inhalation suffered in a flashover -- the superheated flame that burst forth shortly after another firefighter broke a window in a small bedroom where the fire was set. Mickel and Begg were inside searching for a training dummy
    This is exactly what Paul Grimwood was talking about in the recent thread that he started which included the Poll as to whether you should vent the room while a search was taking place.
    Busy polishing the stacked tips on the deckgun of I.A.C.O.J. Engine#1

    ...and before you ask - YES I have done a Bloody SEARCH!

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