At a structure fire in Buffalo last year, a number of issues resulted in the deaths of two firefighters, NIOSH officials said in a report released this week.
Lt. Charles “Chip” McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom were killed after a floor collapsed.
NIOSH officials said among the contributing factors were working above an uncontrolled, free-burning basement fire; interior condition reports not communicated to command; inadequate risk-versus-gain assessments; and, crew integrity not maintained.
McCarthy was ahead of two other firefighters when the first floor partially collapsed, sending him into the burning basement. The other two made it out of the building unaware of what happened.
The lieutenant “made several Mayday calls from within the structure and activated his PASS device. Confusion erupted exteriorly on scene when trying to verify who was calling the Mayday, their exact location, and how they got into the basement,” the report read.
Officials believe Croom, who was part of the FAST team, grabbed tools and headed into the building where he McCarthy had entered previously.
McCarthy was identified as the missing firefighter during the first PAR check. Croom’s disappearance wasn’t notified until the third PAR, about 50 minutes after the original Mayday.
The two were later found side-by-side in the basement. They had their face pieces on. Their bottles were empty.
Several other firefighters were hurt.
NIOSH suggested that to minimize the risk of similar incidents, departments should:
- Ensure that all personnel are aware of the dangers of working above a fire, especially a basement fire, and develop, implement, and enforce a standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses strategies and tactics for this type of fire.
- Ensure that the incident commander (IC) receives interior status reports and performs/continues evaluating risk-versus-gain.
- Ensure that crew integrity is maintained at all times on the fireground.
- Ensure that the incident commander (IC) receives accurate personnel accountability reports (PAR) so that he can account for all personnel operating at an incident.
- Ensure that a separate incident safety officer, independent from the incident commander, is appointed at each structure fire.
- Ensure that fire fighters use their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and are trained in SCBA emergency procedures.