Remember the fallen with the
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
On July 22, 2008, a 24 year-old male fire fighter responding from a volunteer mutual aid department was fatally injured during a floor collapse in a residential basement fire.
Fire fighters were on scene approximately 30 minutes and had made several attempts to locate the fire by entering the basement via stairs at the B/C corner of the structure.
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A Volunteer Mutual Aid Fire Fighter Dies in a Floor Collapse in a Residential Basement Fire
Revised on November 06, 2009 to update Investigator Information Section
While a crew was in the basement, a 4-member mutual aid interior crew entered the first floor of the structure to open windows to horizontally ventilate the structure without damaging the windows. The ventilation crew crawled across the first floor to egress; several members of the ventilation crew verbally reported to each other that the floor was spongy about halfway to the door. The floor collapsed just as the last crew member (the victim) approached the door, sending fire and heavy smoke throughout the house.
The attack crew in the basement and crews just outside the door were blown down by the force of the fire and smoke. Due to heavy smoke, the victim could not be located.
Fire fighters used several hoselines to put water on the area; a crew made entry into the basement by placing a ground ladder in the collapsed floor at the B-side french doors and found the victim.
After moving a large sofa to gain access to the victim, the crew was able to remove the victim from the structure.
The victim was nonresponsive to CPR and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Key contributing factors identified in this incident included: a crew operating on the floor above a fire that had been burning for more than the 30 minutes that fire fighters were on scene, characteristics of the structure that inhibited early efforts to ventilate the structure, and subsequent ventilation efforts that were not coordinated with interior operations.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
- ensure that the incident commander (IC) conducts a 360 degree size-up which includes risk-versus-gain analysis prior to committing interior operations and continues risk assessments throughout the operations
- ensure that standard operating procedures are established for a basement fire
- ensure that proper ventilation is done to improve interior conditions and is coordinated with the interior attack
- ensure that interior crews are equipped with a thermal imaging camera
- ensure that Rapid Intervention Teams are staged and ready