The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program have released the line of duty death report of a Maryland volunteer firefighter killed in a rapid fire event during an unprotected search at a January 2011 apartment fire.
Read the Report
Volunteer Fire Fighter Caught in a Rapid Fire Event - Maryland
On January 19, 2011, at approximately 1855 hours, a 43-year-old volunteer fire fighter died after being caught in a rapid fire progression. The victim and another fire fighter were conducting a search of a third-floor apartment above the fire, which had started on the first floor. Conditions at the time of entry for the search crew indicated that the fire was under control.
The fire had already breached the second-floor apartment through a sliding glass door in the rear of the structure but was oxygen-limited. Another crew was initiating a civilian rescue from the second-floor apartment above the fire when a rapid fire build-up occurred on the second floor. The fire and smoke traveled up the common stairwell, igniting the third-floor apartment and trapping the victim.
The victim radioed multiple Mayday calls, but crews were unable to reach him before his facepiece melted from the extensive heat produced by the rapid fire progression. The other fire fighter who was with the victim was searching a bedroom and his exit was cut off by the rapid fire progression. He was forced to bail out a bedroom window and was injured by the fall.
Rescue efforts were initiated, the victim was located, and removed from the third-floor apartment. The victim died from exposure to the products of combustion.
- Incident Management System
- Personnel Accountability System
- Rapid Intervention Crews
- Conducting a search without a means of egress protected by a hoseline
- Tactical consideration for coordinating advancing hoselines from opposite directions
- Building safety features, e.g., no sprinkler systems, modifications limiting automatic door closing
- Occupant behavior-leaving sliding glass door open
- Ineffective ventilation.
- 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.
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