LODD Anniversary: West Virginia Firefighters Die While Fighting Mobile Home Fire

The pump operator sounded the evacuation alarm when he noticed his tank water was low.
Incident scene. (NIOSH/fire marshal photo)

Remember the fallen with the lessons learned

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program

On February 19, 2009, a 49-year-old male volunteer lieutenant (Victim #1) and a 26-year-old male fire fighter (Victim #2) were fatally injured while combating a mobile home fire.

They arrived on scene to find a camper fully involved with fire and flames impinging on an adjacent mobile home. The occupants of the camper and mobile home escaped without injury, prior to the fire department’s arrival.

Read the Report:
Volunteer Lieutenant and a Fire Fighter Die While Combating a Mobile Home Fire

The victims entered the mobile home through the front door with a charged 1½-in hoseline. Within 5 to 10 minutes of them entering, the pump operator sounded the evacuation alarm when he noticed his tank water was low. The victims did not evacuate from the structure.

Fire fighters on scene attempted to contact the victims via radio and by yelling into the mobile home.

The fire chief and a fire fighter tugged on the 1½-in hoseline several times with no response. They then pulled on the hoseline and it came freely from the mobile home.

Fire conditions were primarily contained to the one side of the structure while several attempts were made to locate the victims by fire fighters entering through the front door and noninvolved side of the mobile home.

The victims were eventually discovered in the front room of the mobile home—several feet from the front door they had entered through.

Their facepieces were not on when they were found.

The victims were pronounced dead on scene.

Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include lack of department administrative controls in regards to donning respiratory protection and SCBA maintenance, SCBAs were not equipped with an integrated or stand-alone PASS device, incident commander (IC) involvement in fireground activities, and wind conditions pushing smoke through the mobile home.

NIOSH has concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:

  • ensure that fire fighters use their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during all stages of a fire due to the potential exposure and health affects of fire-produced toxins
  • ensure that all SCBAs are equipped with an integrated personal alert safety system (PASS) device
  • ensure that all fire fighters are equipped with a means to communicate with fireground personnel before entering a structure fire
  • ensure that the incident commander (IC) does not become involved with fire fighting activities
  • ensure that the incident commander (IC) maintains close accountability for all personnel operating on the fireground and that procedures and training for the use of a personnel accountability report (PAR) are in place
  • ensure that a properly trained incident safety officer (ISO) is appointed at all structure fires
  • ensure that a rapid intervention team (RIT) is established and available to immediately respond to emergency rescue incidents
  • ensure that hoseline operations are properly coordinated so as not to impede search-and-rescue operations
  • develop, implement, and enforce written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for fireground operations
  • ensure that all fire fighters properly wear their department-issued turnout gear and personal protective equipment (PPE) during fire suppression activities
  • develop and maintain a comprehensive respiratory protection program
  • ensure that fire fighters are aware of the dangers involved in fighting mobile home fires
  • ensure that policies and procedures for proper inspection, use, and maintenance of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) are implemented to ensure they function properly when needed

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