Editor’s note: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not seek to...
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On Jan. 9, 2001, a 48-year-old male volunteer firefighter (the victim) was struck by a motor vehicle while directing traffic. The victim and Firefighter 1 had responded in Rescue Truck 66 at 4:42 P.M. to a call for a non-injury, motor vehicle crash involving downed power lines. Assistant Chief 1 called for fire police to block the southbound lane of traffic coming from the north of the motor-vehicle crash, and for another crew to block the northbound traffic coming from the south of the motor-vehicle crash. At 4:54, the victim and Firefighter 1 arrived at the intersection north of the motor-vehicle crash and positioned Rescue Truck 66 just south of the intersection with the apparatus facing north. With the emergency lights activated, Firefighter 1 and the victim stood near Rescue Truck 66, directing traffic. At approximately 5:20, a civilian driver heading west stopped at the intersection and signaled to make a left turn (south). The victim walked over to inform the driver that the road was closed. At 5:22, the victim stepped back away from the driver’s window when a pickup truck traveling eastbound struck him. The victim was thrown under a pickup truck stopped in the westbound traffic lane. He was transported to a local hospital and later transferred to the regional trauma center. He died the following day at 3:23 A.M.
CAUSE OF DEATH
The death certificate lists the cause of death as multiple injuries consisting of a massive closed head injury, pulmonary contusion and chest injury.
- Fire departments should establish, implement and enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding emergency operations for highway incidents.
On April 6, 1999, two male volunteer firefighters (the victims), 28 and 30 years old, died while trying to escape a wildland fire burning in hardwood leaf litter. The victims were part of a 10-person, initial-attack firefighting crew from a local volunteer fire department. After the crew arrived at the fire scene, at about 4:47 P.M., the command post was established. The incident commander (IC) directed the crew to put on wildland personal protective equipment and then designated a crew leader (CL) to oversee line construction operations. A plan of attack was discussed and the CL, along with six firefighters, walked into the forest adjacent to a natural water drain (hollow) where the fire was burning.
The CL and firefighters began clearing vegetation, creating a fire line at the fire site which consisted of two to three acres of hardwood litter under a dormant hardwood overstory. The fire line was being established on the left flank of the hollow adjacent to the fire. Creating the fire line, the firefighters formed a single-file line with the two victims leading. The two victims were using a rake and leaf blower to clear the fire line. As the fire line was being constructed, several spot fires were breaking over the line, and various members of the crew, except the victims, doubled back and reconstructed the fire line.
As the fire grew in intensity and spot fires continued to break over the fire line, the two victims became separated from the rest of the crew. The fire, still growing in intensity, moved rapidly up the hollow, and the CL gave the order, by radio, to pull back. One of the victims, equipped with a radio, acknowledged the order and indicated that he and the other victim would pull back. Shortly thereafter, at around 5:25, the same victim radioed that they had both been burned. This was the last radio transmission heard from the victims. Evidence at the incident site suggests that as the fire began to grow in intensity and move up the hollow, the victims tried to run up the hollow ahead of the fire. As the victims ran farther up the hollow, the terrain became steep (approximately a 45-degree slope). The fire continued to intensify due to gusting winds and the chimney effect created by the terrain in the hollow. The victims’ bodies were later found about 100 yards from the top of the ridge, where they were pronounced dead.