NIOSH Report of Baltimore Recruit Death Released

Dec. 16, 2008

NIOSH investigators have released a list of recommendations following their probe of a Baltimore recruit death last year during a training exercise.

On Feb. 9, Racheal M. Wilson, 29, died while participating in a live burn in a condemned building in Baltimore.

NIOSH officials determined the turnout pants worn by the victim were not in acceptable condition, and should not have been in use.

They also determined through interviews that the department had no physical fitness requirements to become a firefighter.

"It was reported to NIOSH investigators that the fire department relied on self-elimination of recruits as the only means of screening candidates. Information provided during multiple interviews suggests that the environment at the training academy was to pressure the less qualified recruits to drop-out," they wrote.

NIOSH officials also said in the report: "It was also reported that the victim did not meet the minimum required time to complete the physical ability test developed by the fire department when she was hired. She reportedly was re-tested just prior to the incident, and produced a slower time than the initial test..."

The team examined the house used for the training as well as the materials used to ignite the many fires on the various levels.

When the adjunct instructor realized something was terribly wrong he didn't have a radio to call for help. It was his first time in a training role.

The other recruit under his supervision suffered burns when her turnout coat caught on fire.

Fellow rookies who encountered Wilson, who was stuck while trying to get out a window, said they didn't know if it was part of their training scenario. They left her to return to lower floors to fight the fire. "The recruits stated that they didn't know what to think about the victim being stuck in the window. They didn't know if it was part of the training, and they didn't have anyway nor anyone to ask. They decided it would be best to fight fire instead of just leaving the building."

NIOSH investigators made a number of recommendations following the probe.

Related Links

Read Report Related Stories: Baltimore Recruit's Family Calls it Murder Baltimore Recruit Not Ready for Live-Burn Training Baltimore Chief Defends Crew Baltimore Recruit Rescuer, Union Blast Report

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