Oklahoma Firefighter Collapses, Dies Following Live Fire Training

June 2, 2008
A 28-year-old firefighter was found collapsed and unresponsive following a live fire training exercise.

STILLWATER, Okla. -- A firefighter collapsed and later died following a training exercise at Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training on May 31, according to university spokesman Gary Shutt.

The Tulsa World has identified the fallen firefighter as Russell Thomas "Rusty Gains" Topping, a member of the Barnsdall Volunteer Fire Department.

At approximately 6:45 p.m., about 45 minutes after a group of 25 firefighters had finished a live fire training exercise at the facility located in Stillwater, the 28-year-old firefighter was found collapsed and unresponsive.

Fellow firefighters began to administer recovery efforts on Topping, who was then transported by Stillwater crews.

Topping was pronounced dead at the Stillwater Medical Center.

The Oklahoma State Firefighters Association is currently conducting an investigation.

Topping was participating in the "Fire Fighter I Outreach Academy," a program offered by OSU that gives rural and volunteer firefighters the opportunity to gain accredited "Fire Fighter I" credentials for little or no cost.

The group completed a majority of their training in Dewey, Okla., but was in Stillwater to complete the live burn portion.

This is the first training-related fatality in the more than 75-year history of the fire service training program at OSU.

"This is a real tragedy," Shutt said. "Oklahoma State University extends its thoughts and prayers to the family and to his fellow firefighters. OSU Fire Service Training personnel are devastated by this loss."

Funeral Information

Funeral services for Firefighter Topping will be held Thursday, June 5 at 2 p.m. at Bartlesville Southern Baptist Church in Bartlesville, Okla.

Related Links:

Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training

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