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.
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.