NIOSH LODD Report: Philadelphia Firefighter Dies in Structure Fire

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention
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Front of row house (NIOSH photo)

On December 9, 2014, a 37-year-old female career fire fighter/EMT died after becoming lost and running out of air in a residential structure fire. The fire fighter/EMT was the third fire fighter on a hoseline crew attacking the fire when the fire overran their position. One fire fighter and the officer escaped, but the fire fighter/EMT was trapped and radioed a Mayday. However, before she could be located, her buddy breather hoseline burnt through and she lost her available air.

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Career Female Fire Fighter Dies After Becoming Lost and Running Out of Air in a Residential Structure Fire

FirefighterNation: Details Released in Death of Philadelphia Firefighter

At 02:49 hours, two engines, two trucks, and a battalion chief were dispatched to a residential structure fire. Four minutes later, the first arriving engine, Engine 73, reported nothing showing but was informed by Dispatch that a resident might be trapped. The Engine 73 officer investigated and informed Command, who was on-scene, that they had a possible fire in the basement. The battalion chief investigated the first floor and noticed only light smoke. The battalion chief walked upstairs, found an elderly woman in the bedroom, and carried her outside.


The Engine 73 officer and two fire fighters stretched a 1¾-inch hoseline into the kitchen and requested water. Engine 63 was in the rear of the structure and reported fire in the first-floor kitchen window. Engine 73 flowed water towards the basement door then advanced but the hoseline came up short at the door. Command upgraded the response to a full box. Command ordered Ladder 8 to ventilate the structure but Ladder 8 was still en route. Engine 63 made entry into the basement from the rear. Command made several attempts to contact the Engine 73 officer over the radio. Ladder 21 reported a negative primary search on the second floor. Command radioed Engine 73 to back out.

At 03:02 hours, a Mayday was heard and believed to be from Engine 63. Command radioed the Engine 63 officer, then the Mayday was repeated by the Engine 73 fire fighter/EMT that she was trapped on the first floor.

Over the next several minutes, the Engine 73 fire fighter/EMT called for help several times. The Engine 73 officer went inside to search for her. Engine 63 was advancing on the fire in the basement, and Ladder 21 was ventilating the roof and windows. Engine 51 and Engine 72 were fighting fire on the first floor and searched for the Engine 73 fire fighter/EMT.

At 03:16 hours, Engine 72 found the Engine 73 fire fighter/EMT and brought her out. The Engine 73 fire fighter/EMT was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Contributing Factors:

  • Fireground tactics
  • Unrestricted flow path of the fire due to uncontrolled ventilation
  • Crew integrity
  • Mayday training of fire fighters and officers
  • Thermal degradation of SCBA
  • Personal protective equipment not donned before entry
  • Adequate resources not arriving in a timely manner
  • Lack of rapid intervention team assignment and activation

Key Recommendations:

  • Fire departments should ensure that fire suppression is initiated on the floor level of the fire whenever possible.
  • Fire departments should ensure that officers and fire fighters are trained in the latest fire behavior research affecting fireground tactics.
  • Fire departments should ensure that crew integrity is maintained.
  • Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters and officers are trained in the use of hose nozzles and hoseline management skills.
  • Fire departments should ensure that all fire fighters and officers are trained in Mayday techniques and communications.
  • Fire departments should consider upgrading their SCBA and PASS to the latest edition of the NFPA standards to benefit from the increased thermal protection characteristics.
  • Fire departments should ensure that rapid intervention teams are on-scene and activated before interior operations begin.
  • Fire departments should ensure that adequate resources respond in a timely manner.
  • Fire departments should ensure that personal protective equipment is donned prior to entering a structure.
  • Fire departments should ensure that a stationary command post is established and the command team communicates effectively.



Referenced in the Report:
Ciarrocca M, Harms T [2011]. Help on the scene. Fire Rescue Magazine 29(2):40–48
Grilliot W [2007]. To keep safe, wear your PPE. Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment Magazine, April



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