NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
On December 28, 2015, a 28-year-old male career fire fighter died due to thermal injuries and smoke inhalation with severe pulmonary edema at a single-family residential structure fire.
At 0113 hours, the fire department was dispatched to a report of residential structure fire. The dispatcher advised on the dispatch channel that heavy, black smoke was showing. The dispatcher advised at 0114 hours that two elderly people may be in the house.
Additionally, the dispatcher stated there was smoke coming from the basement in the back of the house. These last two transmissions were on the dispatch channel and not simulcast on the tactical channel.
Quint 25 responded at 0114 hours and was on-scene at 0117 hours. Upon arrival, the acting officer of Quint 25 met a police officer who advised him that the neighbors reported two residents possibly inside.
Heavy smoke was showing from the front half of the house, but no flames were visible.
The acting officer of Quint 25 told the fire fighter on Quint 25 to get the thermal imager and take the irons to the front porch (Side Alpha). The acting officer from Quint 25 walked along Side Bravo to Side Charlie. He then proceeded back to Side Alpha. He advised the dispatcher at 0118 hours that smoke was showing from three sides of a residential structure but he could see no visible fire. The acting officer of Quint 25 decided to enter the house through the front door, which was on Side Bravo/Side Alpha corner.
The engineer from Quint 25 had stretched a 1¾-inch hoseline to the front door. The fire fighter from Quint 25 forced the front door. The fire fighter from Quint 25 made entry into the foyer and then turned right into the family/living room. The acting officer of Quint 25 was behind the fire fighter on the hoseline. The acting officer of Quint 25 stated that the smoke was about a foot off the floor but not hot.
As the Quint 25 fire fighter crawled into the family/living room, the floor collapsed and the fire fighter immediately fell into the basement. Note: The term basement will be used in this report versus the term cellar. This is the term used by the fire department in their reports and correspondence.
The acting officer of Quint 25 started calling for the fire fighter. The acting officer from Quint 25 and the foyer were immediately enveloped in fire. The officer from Engine 24 called a Mayday at 0123 hours. Command ordered Tower 22 and Engine 21 to locate the missing fire fighter in the basement at 0125 hours.
In approximately 10 minutes, the fire fighter from Quint 25 was located, placed in a Stokes basket, and removed from the basement.
Once outside, the fire fighter was treated by six paramedics, moved to a stretcher, and transported in Medic 22 to the local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 0226 hours
- Arson fire
- Incomplete scene size-up
- Wind-driven fire
- Lack of tactical priorities (incident action plan)
- Lack of resource status management
- Lack of command safety
- Ineffective dispatch center operations
- Lack of a written professional development program
- As part of the strategy and incident action plan, incident commanders should ensure a detailed scene size-up and risk assessment occurs during initial fireground operations, including the deployment of resources to Side Charlie. Scene size-up and risk assessment should occur throughout the incident
- Incident commanders should ensure that the strategy and tactics (incident action plan) match the conditions encountered during initial operations and throughout the incident
- Fire departments should develop and implement a standard operating procedure, training programs, and tactics for wind-driven fires.