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  1. #1
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    Default 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.

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    http://www.state.nj.us/dca/dfs/westdeptford.doc
    State report condemns chief in W. Deptford fireman's death

    Wednesday, December 17, 2003

    By STEVE LEVINE
    Courier-Post Staff
    WEST DEPTFORD

    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.


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    That's just WRONG!

    "We haven't heard much from these firemen and that's a disgrace," Patti Heenan said.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Forum Member PAVolunteer's Avatar
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    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.
    I haven't had time yet to read the entire report, but I have an initial question for you, George. Is there a state law mandating training in NJ? I think we covered this before, but I forget ...

    Stay Safe

  4. #4
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Angry

    That's a very sad report. It made me think about my company's operations while reading it. The simple, yet time consuming, things we do every day that could be so important, like re-training on basics, paperwork, etc.

    records within the NJ Division of Fire Safety indicate
    This statement I have a problem with. I have original certificates from NJDFS on courses and certifications that they can't find in their system. If the lack of training records found in this case were due to not being found by DFS, it holds no water to me. I've never taken a Fire Inspector class in my life, yet they sent me a certificate along with congratulations for becoming an Inspector. They could not find any of my Instructor certs though. At my company, originals go to the member and multiple copies go into a file kept at the firehouse.

    PA - Yes, NJ requires New Jersey State FF Level 1. Of course, when they made the law they also made it very simple to "grandfather" existing FF's in. Basically, you needed 3 years service and a letter from your Chief, if I remember correctly to be grandfathered to FF1.
    Last edited by Bones42; 12-17-2003 at 02:03 PM.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    I wish the report had included a diagram of the house and/or pictures.

    Immediate questions that come to mind to paint a fuller picture:

    They where out of oil (and thus heat) on January 1st.
    -- What were they using for heat? Woodstoves or electric wouldn't have affected the fire, if instead they had a couple Kerosene heaters going and their tanks failed it could've contributed to a more intense fire.
    -- What was the overall condition of the house, neat & tidy and they just ran out of oil...or was it trashy & run down? Being out of oil just raises a red flag for me.

    Where were the stairs?
    -- Being a Cape, the assumption is a center staircase, "over and under" style with the front leading up, and the rear leading down.

    Stairway location questions the initial tactic of sending the first line through the back (C) side, generally on a cape with fire on the 1st floor you go through the front door to control the stairs heading up.

    I'd also expect with a center stairwell if the basement door was open to see more fire on the rear, not B side which indicates the floor was burning through.

    You know, I was going to write tough call on the initial tactics without knowing the stair position for certain, but then I realized this:

    Attack crew entered 1st floor with known fire below them...without a backup line in place.

    You can't fight fire on two floors alone, especially when one of them is the basement below you with (the assumption of) exposed joists & flooring. Had the 1st floor line gone to fight the kitchen fire, they probably would've passed the basement stairs risking being cut-off that way. Had the 1st floor team gone down the stairs, then the kitchen fire would've extended and cut them off. Can you say lose/lose place to be?

    THEN things went downhill...

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    Originally posted by PAVolunteer

    I haven't had time yet to read the entire report, but I have an initial question for you, George. Is there a state law mandating training in NJ? I think we covered this before, but I forget ...

    Stay Safe
    As Bones said, FF1 is mandatory. The grandfathering was, in fact, easy, in order to accomodate older guys (grandfathers actually) who may not have had the opportunity to attend a FA. However, the ease with which an individual could be grandfathered makes this worse.

    There is also a mandate for FF to have ICS 100, officers to have ICS 200 and Chief Officers to have ICS 300. It sounsd like these guys had completed ICS 000.

    And Bones, do you think that before they put a statement like that in a controversial report that they might have checked a little further. I know the guys who put these reports together and I know that this fact would have been verified 100% before the report was allowed to print.

    But Bones makes a great point in the day-to-day operations. Why is it that we mostly have drills on complicated scenarios which would probably never occur in a 100 years instead of concentrating on the stuff that could happen every single day? I taught a size-up class o a local FD herer and it was eye-opening how many people walked out of there with a different attitude towards "just another house fire" (not because of me, but because of the subject matter).

  7. #7
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Question 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.
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    That's interesting. First of all, NJ is not a Pro Qual Board state. They will recognize other state's training, but there is no Pro Qual Board certified training in NJ. There is a set curriculum, with set hours, etc. But it is loosely based on national standards. Since NJ is the home rule capital of the world, why would we want someone else to tell us how to train our FF?

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Talking Let's Make A Deal...................

    How about this? You train my politicians, I'll train your Firefighters.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    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."
    Did I read this right?? Does NJ really provide TIC's to all departments?

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    Yes Nozzleman, it is correct. Every Department in the state at least got one(1). For every 20,000 of population, you got an additional TIC. The City of Bayonne Fire Department got a total of four (4) with a population of about 65-70,000.

    I was not there and know very little about the fire, other than it was a basement fire, so I will not comment on the fire. All I will say is this:

    1.) In over 95% of the houses I have been in, the basement stairs are directly below the stairs leading to the 2nd floor.
    2.) The stairs leading to the 2nd floor are normally in close proximity to the front door.
    3.) The occupants normally live on the 2nd floor.
    4.) The first line should go through the front door(when at all possible) and to the basement door, and down, to extinguish the fire. This places the line betweeen the fire and the stairs allowing the occupants to escape and protecting the brothers operating on the floor above.
    5.) If the first line was used to secure the stairs, then the 2nd line has to go and extinguish the fire.

    Be safe brothers,
    Kevin M. Fitzhenry
    Captain, Rescue Company 1
    City of Bayonne (NJ) Fire Department

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    Originally posted by ThNozzleman

    Did I read this right?? Does NJ really provide TIC's to all departments?
    As Fitz says, the State of NJ provided at least one TIC to every FD in NJ. The oly proviso was that the department had to agree, in writing, to particiapte in NFIRS. It was a pretty good deal for alot of smaller departments that would never have been able to raise enough money to buy their own.

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    This is a problem in NJ, people do not seem to know what is really going on because of a huge lack of communication. The following is a quote from the NJ state division of fire safety to a recent email I sent them:

    "Contrary to popular belief, Firefighter-1 is not state mandated. This could change one day, but not at this time. The basis for training is PEOSHA requirements that all employees, including volunteer firefighters, be properly trained to do their jobs. Training requirements are based on accredited national standards such as those provided by IFSTA using national accepted standards like the NFPA 1001, which New Jersey has modified this standard to suit state preferences."

    FF1 is NOT required in NJ but everyone thinks that it is.....which in my opinion is a good thing so it gets done.

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    George,

    ICS 300 is not required for chief officers by the state, ICS 200 and IMS level 1 is. Below is directly from the division of fire safety's web site. From what I understand from talking to the division of fire safety and from reading their information there is no difference from an officer and a chief officer so from Lt. to Chief the requirements are the same.

    "Incident Management System Training: Firefighter I Certification required. All fire service personnel are required to complete the two-hour introductory ICS Orientation (I-100) by February 17, 1999. Supervisory personnel are required to complete additional ICS Basic (I- 200) by February 17, 2000. Training required by and must meet NJAC 5:73-6.1. IMS Orientation (I-100) initial training two hours. IMS Basic (I-200) initial training 12- 16 hours. No refresher training required. NJ Division of Fire Safety. (609) 633-6321 http://www.state.nj.us/dca/dfs/bfds.htm "

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    This is interesting. Wrong twice in the same post.

    Turk, you are right about the ICS. However, the FF1 thing doesn't make sense. I have spoken with them directly and have been told the exact opposite. Why include it in the report if it is not mandated? Why break everyone's chops about getting the certificate if it is not mandatory? I'll look into this one and figure it out.

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    Forum Member PAVolunteer's Avatar
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    I'll look into this one and figure it out.
    George, PLEASE do so and let us know. As you know, PA does not require anything. If this is not mandated by law, the fact that a FD was scolded for it in this report could go a long way in my effort to get FDs in PA to make it mandatory (even though the state does not require it).

    Thanks in advance ...

    Stay Safe

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    As Fitz says, the State of NJ provided at least one TIC to every FD in NJ. The oly proviso was that the department had to agree, in writing, to particiapte in NFIRS.
    And the really sad fact is that there are departments that did not take advantage of this offer. The phrase "we're too small and don't have enough time to do NFIRS" seemed to be a common excuse at the time. Also, for departments that already had a TIC, the State provided $6000 to reimburse the department for purchasing it's own. We fell into the reimbursment group.

    George, I would hope that it was verified. I spent a good many hours last year on the phone with DFS staff trying to get all my cert's straightened out and they were not leaving me with that warm fuzzy feeling.

    Am I correct in that for NJ, ICS 100 and ICS 200 = IMS Level 1?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Am I correct in that for NJ, ICS 100 and ICS 200 = IMS Level 1?
    I have no clue. Since all my ICS courses were taken as law enforcement, I am under that ICS/NJSP hammer.

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    OK. This is clipped directly from the NJ Division of Fire Safety Website.
    There are several certification and recertification requirements for
    firefighters in New Jersey from various agencies. Synopses of them
    are listed below:
    Required for all responders:
    • Bloodborne Pathogens Training: Training required by and must meet N.J.A.C. 12:100-4.2. Initial training and annual refresher training no set hours for either. Initial and Refresher Training must cover all topics in 29 CFR 1910.1030 and to keep proficiency. NJ Department of Health and Senior Services. (609) 984-1863 http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/peoshweb/peoshact.htm
    • Right to Know Training: Initial training and refresher training every two years. Training required by and must meet N.J.A.C. 8:59-6. Initial training four hours and refresher training two hours. NJ Department of Health and Senior Services. (609) 984-2202 http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/rtkweb/
    • Hazardous Materials Training: Awareness and Operations. Initial and refresher training. Includes SCBA. Training required by and must meet 29 CFR 1920.120. Initial Awareness training eight hours. Refresher training has no set hours, but must cover topic in sufficient depth to keep proficiency. Initial Operations training 12 hours. Annual refresher training has no set hours, but must cover topic in sufficient depth to keep proficiency. US Department of Labor. http://www.osha.gov/index.html
    • Confined Space Training: Departments with the potential for confined space work must have initial training required by and must meet NJAC 12:100-9. Initial training and refresher training no set hours. Must cover topics in 29 CFR 1910.146. Refresher training when procedures or confined spaces change. US Department of Labor. http://www.osha.gov/index.html
    • Incident Management System Training: Firefighter I Certification required. All fire service personnel are required to complete the two-hour introductory ICS Orientation (I-100) by February 17, 1999. Supervisory personnel are required to complete additional ICS Basic (I- 200) by February 17, 2000. Training required by and must meet NJAC 5:73-6.1. IMS Orientation (I-100) initial training two hours. IMS Basic (I-200) initial training 12- 16 hours. No refresher training required. NJ Division of Fire Safety. (609) 633-6321 http://www.state.nj.us/dca/dfs/bfds.htm


    If you look at the requirement for IMS Training, it clearly says that this training is required of all fire fighters (I100) and supervisory personnel (I200). Just before that it clearly says "Firefighter I Certification required". That would indicate to me that FFI certification is a prerequisite for all fire fighters to take the mandatory IMS Training. That is what I have always believed to be the case.

    If someone at NJDFS is saying something different, that person needs to look at their own regs.

    So, it looks like I was only wrong once. Phew!

  20. #20
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    What I find most disturbing is that we still find ourselves FORCING fire departments to become more competent. With each new overtly ignorant act that results in yet another firefighter death, we register indignation and amazement that a fire department did not have rudimentary skills.
    How many discussions have we had about qualifications for officers? How many discussions have we had about inexperiences firefighters as officers? How many about the selection process for officers?
    So why are we surprised this time? When a person can be "grandfathered" to a SKILL LEVEL in any state, it is a recipe for disaster. If a person can be voted in as chief by his department simply because....then more bad decisions will be made and more firefighters will die.
    A size up made without the benefit of the latest technology such as a thermal imaging camera is foolish AND dangerous.
    I will have more later. I must read the entire report.
    George; thank you for your efforts in this matter.
    CR
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 12-18-2003 at 10:49 AM.
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