Death in the Line of Duty

The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. Firehouse® Magazine is pleased to join with NIOSH in...


The United States depends on 1.2 million firefighters to protect its citizens and property from losses caused by fire. Of these firefighters, 210,000 are career/paid and 1 million are volunteers. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimate that on...


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The United States depends on 1.2 million firefighters to protect its citizens and property from losses caused by fire. Of these firefighters, 210,000 are career/paid and 1 million are volunteers. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimate that on average 105 firefighters die in the line of duty each year.

In fiscal year 1998, Congress recognized the need for further efforts to address the continuing national problem of occupational firefighter fatalities, and funded the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct independent investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. NIOSH is a unit of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 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.

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 at www.cdc/niosh/firehome.html.

MISSOURI
Two Career Firefighters Die in Four-Alarm Fire at Two-Story Brick Structure (Case F2002-20)

On May 3, 2002, a 38-year-old male career firefighter (Victim 1) died after he became lost and ran out of air while searching for a missing 38-year-old male career firefighter (Victim 2) at a four-alarm, two-story structure fire. Victim 2 was identified as missing when he failed to respond to a member accountability roll call (MARC). Victim 1 reentered the structure to search for Victim 2 as part of a search-and-rescue team. Shortly thereafter, Victim 1 became lost and radioed Mayday several times. After extensive searches for both victims, they were removed from the structure and provided medical attention on the scene. They were then transported by EMS to a local hospital. Victim 1 was pronounced dead on arrival and Victim 2 was pronounced dead the following day.

CAUSE OF DEATH

According to the coroner’s report, the cause of death for both victims was smoke inhalation. The carbon monoxide level in the blood was noted to be less than 10% in Victim 1 and 47.9% in Victim 2. Victim 1 had third-degree thermal injury over 40% of his body, and Victim 2 had third-degree thermal injury over 18% of his body surface area.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Fire departments should ensure that team continuity is maintained.

  • Fire departments should ensure that a rapid intervention team is established and in position immediately upon arrival.

  • Fire departments should ensure that the incident command system is fully implemented at the fire scene.

  • Fire departments should ensure that firefighters, when operating on the floor above the fire, have a charged hoseline.

  • Fire departments should instruct and train firefighters on manually activating their PASS device when they become lost, disoriented or trapped.

  • Fire departments should ensure that a separate incident safety officer (ISO), independent from the incident commander, is appointed.

  • Fire departments should ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) and equipment are adequate and sufficient to support the volume of radio traffic at multiple-alarm fires.

  • Fire departments should ensure that self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) are properly inspected, used, and maintained to ensure they function properly when needed.

MASSACHUSETTS
Six Career Firefighters Killed in Cold Storage and Warehouse Building Fire (Case F1999-47)

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