Remember the fallen with the
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
On July 4, 2002, a 30-year-old male volunteer fire chief, a 40-year-old male volunteer deputy fire chief, and a 30-year-old male career fire fighter died when a residential structure collapsed, trapping them, along with four fire fighters and an officer who survived.
At 0136 hours, a combination fire department and a mutual-aid volunteer fire department were dispatched to a structure fire. Local law enforcement radioed Central Dispatch reporting a fully involved structure with three children trapped on the second floor.
The first officer on the scene assumed incident command and reported to Central Dispatch that the incident site was a three-story structure with fire showing and that people could be seen at the windows. Note: The female resident (survivor) was the person seen in the window. The three children that were reported as being trapped did not survive and were later found in the debris.
Additional units were requested, including a mutual-aid ladder company from a career department. Crews were on the scene searching for occupants and fighting the fire for approximately 27 minutes when the building collapsed.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar incidents, fire departments should:
- ensure that the department’s structural fire fighting standard operating guidelines (SOGs) are followed and refresher training is provided
- ensure that the Incident Commander (IC) formulates and establishes a strategic plan for offensive and defensive operations
- ensure that the incident commander (IC) continuously evaluates the risk versus gain during operations at an incident
- ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed
- ensure that fire fighters conducting interior operations (e.g., search and rescue, initial attack, etc.) provide progress reports to the IC
- ensure that accountability for all personnel at the fire scene is maintained
- ensure that a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) is established and in position
- ensure that the officer in charge of an incident recognize factors (e.g., structural defects, large body of fire in an old structure, etc.) when analyzing potential building collapse
- ensure, when feasible, that fire fighters should respond together, in one emergency vehicle, as a crew
Additionally, municipalities should consider:
- establishing and maintaining regional mutual-aid radio channels to coordinate and communicate activities involving units from multiple jurisdictions