Death of Maryland Firefighter Reviewed by NIOSH

NIOSH has made several recommendations regarding incident command following a fire last winter that claimed the life of a Maryland firefighter.

Lutherville Firefighter Mark Falkenhan, 43, a married father of two from Middle River, was caught in a flashover while battling a house fire.

The NIOSH probe that includes specific details of what occurred inside the house also talks about what was going on outside as well.

Among their recommendations are:

  • Ensure the first-due arriving officer maintains the role of Incident Commander or transfers "Command" to the next arriving officer
  • Ensure that a first-due company officer establishes command, maintains the role of director of fireground operations, does not become involved in fire-fighting operations, and ensures incident command is effectively transferred
  • Fire departments should ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at each structure fire
  • Ensure fire fighters are trained in the procedures of searching above the fire and are protected by a hoseline
  • Ensure that interior search crews' means of egress are protected by a staffed hoseline
  • Ensure that a rapid intervention team or crew is established and available to immediately respond to emergency rescue incidents.

The investigators interviewed firefighters involved with the incident, and concluded that a number of issues were contributing factors.

Among the contributors include incident management system, personnel accountability system, rapid intervention crews, conducting a search without a means of egress protected by a hose line and tactical consideration for coordinating advancing hose lines from opposite directions.

The lack of sprinklers also were listed.

The ATF has developed a computerized fire model to help with recreating the conditions experienced by the crews that night.

They also suggested crews utilize thermal imaging cameras to locate both the flames and victims.