The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released their : Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report on the trauma death of Houston Fire Department Captain Grady Burke who died in a house fire February 19, 2005.
The report summary stated Burke died after being trapped by the partial collapse of the roof of a vacant one-story wood frame dwelling. The house was abandoned and known by residents in the area to be a 'crack house" at the time of the incident.
Burke was the captain on the first-arriving engine crew which was assigned to perform a "fast attack" -- to take a hoseline into the house, locate the seat of the fire, and begin extinguishment. The one-story wooden ranch-style house was built in the 1950s and additional rooms had been added at the rear in at least two phases following the initial construction. Crews arriving on scene could see fire venting through the roof at the rear of the house.
Burke and a fire fighter advanced the initial attack line through the front entrance and made their way toward the rear of the house. Visibility was good in the front of the house but conditions quickly changed as they advanced toward the rear. The fast attack crew had just begun to direct water onto the burning ceiling in the kitchen and den areas when the roof at the rear of the structure (over the building additions) collapsed, trapping the captain under burning debris.
The collapse pushed fire toward the front of the house which quickly ignited carbon and dust particles suspended in the air along with combustible gases, sending a fireball rolling toward the front of the structure. Prior to the time of the collapse, two other crews had entered through the front entrance.
The rapidly deteriorating conditions following the collapse quickly engulfed the other crews with fire and five fire fighters received burns requiring medical attention.
NIOSH conducts investigations of fire fighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not seek to determine fault or place blame on fire departments or individual fire fighters, but to learn from these tragic events and prevent future similar events.
To read the entire report: FACE-F2005-09 Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Reports