NJ LODD Investigation Rips Fire Chief
If you think this incident is bad from the news report, reserve judgement until you have read the entire report. West Deptford should be renamed Lairdsville, NJ.
State report condemns chief in W. Deptford fireman's death
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
By STEVE LEVINE
The state Division of Fire Safety released a scathing report Tuesday on the death of firefighter James Heenan that lays blame at the feet of Heenan's fire chief, John Casciano.
Heenan, a member of the Verga Volunteer Fire Department, died of injuries suffered in a Jan. 1, 2001, house fire at 1669 Atkins Ave. in the Verga section of the township.
Heenan and firefighter James Miller, also a member of the Verga department, entered the house on the first floor, directly above the blaze. Heenan was about six feet into the house when the floor gave way, dropping him into the burning basement. Miller escaped with minor injuries.
The report found that Casciano, the first firefighter on the scene and the ranking officer, did not properly analyze the fire before sending his men into it.
It also says Casciano made a critical error by not using thermal imaging equipment - provided by the state to all fire departments for determining a structure's safety - during "size-up, initial rescue and fire suppression operations."
Casciano made this decision despite the presence of a thermal imaging camera aboard Engine 621 at the scene, according to the report.
Finally, the report says, a decision to introduce a so-called fog stream - water - into the basement, forced fire and superheated gases back down on Heenan after the floor collapsed, causing injuries that led to his death.
Officials with the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, a branch of the Department of Community Affairs, said Casciano did not cooperate with their investigation and had to be subpoenaed for information.ADVERTISEMENT - CLICK TO ENLARGE OR VISIT WEBSITE
Casciano did not return calls for comment.
In addition to alleging negligence at the scene, the state found that of 22 firefighters on the Verga roster, only five members (including Heenan) and one officer were certified to fight fires.
"Miller, who served as back-up for Heenan . . . had not completed basic Firefighter 1 training," the report concluded.
Heenan's widow, Patti, said she was shocked by the lapse in judgment Casciano has been charged with and also at the alleged lack of training in the Verga department.
"They apparently made the wrong call and they cost my boys their father," she said.
Heenan said she and her sons, Jimmy, 19, and Michael, 17, were suspicious about the way the fire was handled almost from the beginning and that they've had little communication with the department since her husband's funeral.
James Heenan, 37, died March 25, 2001. He served 17 years with the Verga Fire Department.
"We haven't heard much from these firemen and that's a disgrace," Patti Heenan said.
She said she has filed a lawsuit against the maker of the turnout gear her husband was wearing but missed a 90-day deadline following the date of the incident to file a tort claim against the township or fire department.
Heenan doesn't believe she will be able to collect damages from the municipality even in light of the state's findings.
Township administrator Gerald White called the conclusions made in the report "jarring" and was shocked to learn that some members of the township's four volunteer fire departments are not properly trained.
"It's a disturbing report to read," White said.
White said while the municipality funds the department, its officers and members do not report to municipal officials.
The report came with a list of recommendations the Division of Fire Safety would like to see implemented statewide in light of the Verga fire and investigation. Among them:
Better maintenance of training and record keeping on training.
Paying more attention to the sizing up of fires from the initial report to the time it is declared under control.
Using thermal imaging cameras regularly during training, sizing-up and search and rescue and firefighting operations.
Not directing water streams from outside a structure inward if firefighters are inside.
Another Question For George or Bones........
How does NJ's training fit into outside certification agencies (NBFSPQ) systems? That would be one way to get certifications that have a solid data foundation.
Let's Make A Deal...................
How about this? You train my politicians, I'll train your Firefighters. :D :D :D