Published Friday, February 20, 2009
| From the January 2006 Issue of FireRescue
On April 4 2004 a career firefighter died while fighting a nightclub arson fire. Crews were dispatched at 0555 HRS to a reported truck fire (a hazmat incident) but arrived on the scene to discover a structure fire. Engine 50 was the first to arrive; the captain and two crewmembers (a firefighter and the victim) initiated a fast attack. Ladder 38 arrived shortly after Engine 50 and entered the building to assist the Engine 50 crew. District Chief 5 then arrived on scene and assumed command.
As conditions deteriorated firefighters decided to exit the building. It is believed that the victim became separated from his crew at this time. The incident commander (IC) called for operations to go defensive at the same time the crews were making their way out of the building. One firefighter from Ladder 38 reentered the building after realizing his captain had failed to exit with the crew. He found and dragged the unconscious Engine 50 captain to safety before returning and assisting the semiconscious Ladder 38 captain out of the building. A third firefighter failed to exit the building and was later found in the debris.
CAUSE OF DEATH
The autopsy report listed the victim's cause of death as high thermal exposure.
Fire departments should ensure the firstarriving officer conducts a complete sizeup of the incident and evaluates the risk versus gain prior to committing crews to interior operations.
- Fire departments should ensure firefighters conducting interior operations provide progress reports to the IC.
- Fire departments should ensure fire department standard operating procedures (SOPs) are followed regarding thermal-imaging camera (TIC) use during interior operations.
- Fire departments should ensure all firefighters and line officers receive annual refresher training regarding structural firefighting.
- Fire departments should establish and implement an orientation and training program for all newly appointed promoted or reassigned officers.
- Fire departments should consider ways to enhance the effectiveness of the personnel accountability system.
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