Aerial view of structure after incident. Photo courtesy of fire department (NIOSH)
On March 21, 2003, a 25-year old male career fire fighter (the victim) was fatally injured in a flashover during a house fire. The victim and two other fire fighters were on an interior attack crew and had just gone through the front door of a single family residence.
The hose line was uncharged and the crew was calling for water when a flashover occurred. From the time the victim arrived on scene until the flashover was approximately four minutes.
After the flashover, fire fighters on the front porch witnessed the victim walk toward the front door then turn and retreat into the structure. The two other fire fighters on the interior crew exited through the front door. They were injured and transported to the hospital where they were treated and released.
The victim was located and removed from the structure within 10 minutes. He was transported via ambulance to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
- review and revise existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for structural fire fighting to ensure fire fighters enter burning structures with charged hose lines
- ensure that a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) is established and in position prior to initiating an interior attack
- ensure that ventilation is closely coordinated with interior operations
- ensure that crew continuity is maintained on the fireground
- ensure that fire command always maintains close accountability for all personnel operating on the fireground
Additionally, emergency dispatchers should:
- obtain as much information as possible from the caller and report it to the responding fire fighters