Side Alpha — street view of the duplex. Engine 16 and Ladder 4 made entry into the building through the left doorway. (NIOSH photo.)
On October 7, 2014, a 48-year-old male career fire fighter died while conducting interior fire-fighting operations in a two-story residential apartment fire.
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Career Fire Fighter Dies From an Out-of-air Emergency in an Apartment Building Fire
At 1830 hours, Engine 16 was dispatched to a structure fire reported with smoke showing. The lieutenant from Engine 16 conducted a scene size-up and reported heavy fire showing from the second floor on Side Bravo. The lieutenant and right jumpseat fire fighter made entry into the front door with a 1¾-inch hoseline and started up the stairs to the second-floor apartment. The Ladder 4 crew went by them, went to the top of the stairs, and forced the door to the apartment.
The Engine 16 crew entered the apartment, and the lieutenant had the hoseline charged. The apartment was hot with zero visibility. The lieutenant had his fire fighter pencil the ceiling. Minutes later, the fire fighter’s vibra-alert activated, and the lieutenant told him to exit the building. The lieutenant started to exit the apartment but couldn’t find the fire fighter behind him. The lieutenant continued to search for the Engine 16 fire fighter and stated that he called a Mayday, but it was not acknowledged by Command. He then tried to radio the fire fighter.
A fire fighter from Ladder 4 vented the picture window on Side Alpha of the second-floor apartment. The heat conditions increased in the apartment. Two fire fighters from Tactical Unit 1 were in the living room of the apartment, and due to the heat conditions, they got separated. One of the fire fighters from Tactical Unit 1 had been hit by a hose stream and momentarily lost consciousness, eventually causing him to fall out the Side Alpha picture window. He was transported to the hospital with burns and lacerations.
The Engine 16 lieutenant came out of the building and the Engine 16 fire fighter was still not located. Command activated the rapid intervention crew and ordered Engine 5 and Tactical Unit 1 into the apartment. Engine 5 made entry to the apartment and heard a PASS alarm going off to the right of the door. The Engine 16 fire fighter was found lying on his right side near the door with his foot caught in a piece of furniture.
The Engine 5 crew brought the fire fighter out of the building, and he was transported to the hospital but pronounced dead upon arrival.
The Engine 16 lieutenant sustained injuries but was treated and released. The Tactical Unit 1 fire fighter who had fallen out the window remained in the hospital for 23 days.
- Fireground tactics
- Crew integrity
- Personnel accountability
- Air management
- Mayday procedures
- Fireground communications
- Personal protective equipment use
- Live fire training
- Unsprinklered occupancy
- Fire departments should ensure that risk assessments are conducted prior to initial operations and throughout the incident and that the strategy and tactics match the assessment.
- Fire departments should ensure that crew integrity is properly maintained by voice or radio contact when operating in an immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) atmosphere.
- Fire departments should ensure that fire fighters and officers are properly trained in air management including out-of-air emergencies.
- Fire departments should use a personnel accountability system that accounts for all resources assigned to an incident.
- Fire departments should ensure that incident commanders incorporate the principles of command safety into the incident management system.
- Fire departments should ensure fire fighters are properly trained in Mayday procedures.
- Fire departments should provide the incident commander with a Mayday tactical checklist for use in the event of a Mayday.