Death in the Line of Duty

The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program continues to present its investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries.


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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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 determine fault or place blame on fire departments or individual firefighters, but to learn from these tragic events and prevent future similar events. NIOSH is a unit of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Firehouse® Magazine is pleased to join with NIOSH in presenting this valuable information. It is important to note that while some incidents that will be described here occurred several years ago, the information presented is valuable today. The accounts that follow are summaries of NIOSH investigations. The complete reports are available on the program website.

TEXAS
One Firefighter Dies and Another Is Injured After Partial Structural Collapse (Case F2002-07)

SUMMARY
On Feb. 11, 2002, a 42-year-old male firefighter (the victim) was killed and another firefighter was injured in a partial structural collapse while performing suppression operations at an apartment complex under renovation. The victim and three crew members were exiting the complex through a breezeway that connected the fire structure to an uninvolved structure when a section of brick veneer from the uninvolved structure collapsed onto the victim and the injured firefighter. The injured firefighter called for help and was freed by firefighters. A personal accountability report (PAR) was called and it was determined that the victim was missing. A second search found the victim unresponsive and without a pulse beneath a pile of bricks. The victim was extricated, given emergency medical treatment and transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

CAUSE OF DEATH
The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt-force injuries.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should establish and monitor a collapse zone to ensure that no firefighting operations take place within this area as part of defensive operations.
  • Fire departments should ensure that an incident safety officer, independent from the incident commander, is appointed and on scene early in the fire operation.
  • Fire departments should ensure consistent use of personal alert safety system (PASS) devices at all incidents.

DELAWARE
Assistant Chief Dies During Controlled-Burn Training Evolution (Case F2000-27)

SUMMARY
On April 30, 2000, a volunteer fire department prepared to complete a controlled-burn training evolution. At 7 A.M., the following volunteer firefighters gathered at the fire station to discuss their plan of action: the chief, assistant chief (the victim), captain, second rescue lieutenant, chief engineer, third assistant chief engineer and four firefighters. At 7:30, they arrived on the scene of a 2½-story farmhouse that they would use to complete the controlled-burn training evolution.

After completing their setup of laying out water curtains (a stream of water projected through a pipe to cool exposures) and hoselines, the firefighters walked through the structure to familiarize themselves with the layout. The chief, victim and second rescue lieutenant entered the front door of the structure and placed hay on the floor. The firefighters ignited the hay and completed the first training evolution by extinguishing the fire. The firefighters then completed three additional training evolutions (all the same) before taking a break. The firefighters then completed additional training using gasoline-powered saws to cut holes in the interior floors and porch roof.

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