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, which conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for...


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 March 7, 2002, a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter (Victim 1) and a 41-year-old career firefighter (Victim 2) died after becoming trapped in a basement. Victim 1 manned the nozzle while Victim 2 provided backup on the line. After they entered the structure, the floor collapsed, trapping both in the basement. A career fire captain was injured trying to rescue one of the firefighters. Crewmembers responded immediately and attempted to rescue the victims; however, heat and flames overcame both victims and eliminated any rescue efforts from the garage entrance.

CAUSE OF DEATH

The county medical examiner listed the cause of death for both victims as asphyxia due to the inhalation of smoke and soot.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should ensure that the incident commander is clearly identified as the only individual responsible for the overall coordination and direction of all activities at an incident.

  • Fire departments should ensure that the incident commander conveys strategic decisions to all suppression crews on the fireground and continually re-evaluates the fire condition.

  • Fire departments should ensure that incident command conducts an initial size-up of the incident before initiating firefighting efforts and continually evaluates the risk versus gain during operations at an incident.

  • Fire departments should ensure that firefighters from the ventilation crew and the attack crew coordinate their efforts.

  • Fire departments should ensure that firefighters report conditions and hazards encountered to their team leader or incident commander.

  • Fire departments should ensure firefighters are trained to recognize the danger of operating above a fire.