NIOSH Releases LODD Investigations

Federal officials have released two line-of-duty investigation reports.

One involved the death of a volunteer firefighter in Oklahoma who was burned in a wildfire, while the other victim fell through a floor while battling a house fire in Wisconsin.

On March 1, 2006 Destry Horton, 32, a volunteer with Acme Volunteer Fire Department, and another firefighter were severely burned while engaged in a wildfire.

Horton, who also was a career firefighter in Chickasha, died 27 days later of his injuries.

NIOSH sent investigators to Oklahoma in May to start a probe, and interviewed a number of people.

Based on that investigation, the following recommendations were made:

  • Ensure that wildland fire fighting crews check-in at the Incident Command Post, staging area or with the Division/Group Supervisor and obtain a briefing and assignment prior to engaging in fire fighting activities.
  • Ensure that all fire fighters expected to participate in wildland fire fighting operations receive training equivalent to the NFPA Wildland Fire Fighter Level I.
  • Provide fire fighters with approved fire shelters and provide training on the proper deployment of the fire shelters at least annually, with periodic refresher training.
  • Provide fire fighters with wildland appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., Nomex pants or coveralls) that is NFPA 1977 compliant.
  • Ensure that personnel engaged in wildland fire fighting follow the guidelines addressed in the Fireline Handbook developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
  • Establish, implement, and enforce procedures which include, but are not limited to, combating ground cover fires.

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NIOSH officials also have released findings on an incident that occurred Aug. 13, 2006.

Arnie Wolff, 55, a Green Bay, Wisconsin firefighter, died and another firefighter was injured after falling through the floor while engaged in battling a house fire.

Investigators determined the two were crawling on tile when they heard a large crack just before the floor gave way sending them into the basement. The area exploded into a fireball when the floor collapsed. The victim fell into the room of origin, while the injured person fell on the other side of a basement door into a hallway.

The injured firefighter was able to eventually crawl out of a basement window. Wolff's body was was recovered the next day.

Following interviews and the investigation, NIOSH officials made the following recommendations:

  • Conduct pre-incident planning and inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate development of safe fire ground strategies and tactics.
  • Use a thermal imaging camera (TIC) during the initial size-up and search phases of a fire.
  • Ensure fire fighters are trained to recognize the danger of operating above a fire and identify buildings constructed with trusses.

Additionally, building code officials and local authorities having jurisdiction shouldconsider modifying the current building codes to require that lightweight trusses be protected with a fire barrier on both the top and bottom.

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