Death in the Line of Duty

Firehouse® Magazine continues to offer valuable information in this series of the NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program.


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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IOWA
Firefighter Dies After Roof Collapse Following Roof Ventilation (Case F2002-40)

SUMMARY
On Sept. 14, 2002, a 53-year-old male career firefighter died after falling through a roof following roof ventilation operations at a house fire. The victim, who was not wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), was observing another firefighter who was wearing an SCBA while making ventilation cuts. After making the last cut, the victim, who had been covering his face with his hands, told his partner that they had to leave immediately. The firefighters retreated toward the aerial platform, but the victim stopped a few feet from the platform, saying he could not continue. Seconds later, the area of the roof under the victim failed, and he fell through the roof into the structure and the fire. Within minutes, the interior attack crew found the victim and, with the help of the rapid intervention team (RIT), removed him. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

CAUSE OF DEATH
The cause of death per the autopsy report was smoke inhalation, intra-alveolar hemorrhage and carbon monoxide intoxication (carboxyhemoglobin level, 30.3%).

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should enforce existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for structural firefighting, including the use of SCBA, the incident command system, truck company operations and transfer of command.
  • Fire departments should ensure that the incident commander (IC) evaluates resource requirements during the initial size-up and continuously evaluates the risk versus benefit when determining whether the operation will be offensive or defensive.
  • Fire departments should develop, implement and enforce SOPs regarding vertical ventilation procedures.
  • Fire departments should review dispatch/alarm response procedures with appropriate personnel to ensure that the processing of alarms is completed in a timely manner and that all appropriate units respond according to existing SOPs.
  • Fire departments should ensure that the IC maintains the role of director of fireground operations and does not become involved in firefighting efforts.
  • Fire departments should ensure that adequate numbers of personnel are available to immediately respond to emergency incidents.
  • Fire departments should consider using a thermal imaging camera as part of the exterior size-up.

PENNSYLVANIA
Residential Basement Fire Claims Life of Lieutenant (Case F2004-05)

SUMMARY
On Jan. 9, 2004, a 45-year-old male career lieutenant (the victim) sustained serious injuries after he partially fell through the first floor while fighting a residential basement fire. The victim was among the first on the scene, and he reported light smoke coming from a two-story, middle rowhouse. The victim entered the structure without his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to investigate, and reported to the incident commander (IC) that it was a basement fire. The victim exited the structure to assist his crew in advancing a 1¾-inch hoseline into the structure through the front door of the first floor. The victim’s crew protected the first floor and looked for fire extension as another crew attacked the fire through a rear entrance into the basement. The victim exited the structure a second time, presumably for air, and spoke to another member, who was conducting ventilation. The victim went back into the structure and was trapped on his third attempt to exit when he partially fell through the floor. Rescue crews found and removed the victim within minutes and he was transported to an area hospital, where he died from his injuries seven days later.

CAUSE OF DEATH
The medical examiner lists the cause of death as smoke and soot inhalation and thermal burns.

RECOMMENDATIONS