Two Fire Fighters and a civilian were shot and two other fire fighters injured when trying to perform a welfare check at this single-family residence.(NIOSH?Local Police Department Homicide Unit photo)
On April 15, 2016, a 37-year-old male career fire fighter/paramedic was killed and a 19-year-old male volunteer fire fighter was seriously wounded when they were shot after a combination fire department was dispatched for a check on the welfare of a citizen. The fire fighters were on the front porch attempting to gain entry into the single family dwelling when they were shot by the resident.
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At approximately 1930 hours, the county 911 center received a call from a civilian who reported that he was outside of his brother’s house and his brother was not answering his phone calls or knocks on the front door. The caller reported that he had spoken with his brother earlier in the day and that his brother’s vehicle was parked in the driveway in front of his house. He further stated that his brother had known medical issues. He requested assistance in gaining entry into his brother’s house. Rescue Engine 827 with six volunteer fire fighters and Paramedic Ambulance 823 with two career fire fighter/paramedics were dispatched at 19:35 hours.
After arriving on scene, the fire fighters met the homeowner’s brother in the driveway and observed that all visible windows were covered. The fire fighters knocked on the front door, announced their presence several times and checked for an open door, however they did not perform a 360-degree walk around. After again announcing their presence, the fire fighters began to force open the front doors. Forcing both doors took 5-8 minutes with multiple strikes from three fire fighters using a halogen tool, axe and a sledge. The fire fighters forced the metal outer door but had trouble forcing the inner wooden door and ended up knocking a lower panel out of the wooden door and reaching through the hole to open the door from the inside. Four fire fighters, two medics and the homeowner’s brother were standing on the small front porch and the steps in front of the door. As the door was opened the homeowner’s brother entered. The homeowner fired a pistol multiple times through the open doorway striking his brother, the fire fighter/paramedic and a volunteer fire fighter.
The fire fighters and the civilian all tried to escape from the front porch area (see cover photo) and ran to take cover behind the apparatus in the street. The career fire fighter/paramedic who was shot, ran to Paramedic Ambulance 823 and collapsed at the unit. He was transported in Paramedic Ambulance 823 to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The volunteer fire fighter who was shot ran to Rescue Engine 827 where he was driven to a safe area, transferred to a medic unit, and then transported by air ambulance to a local trauma center. The homeowner’s brother was taken by police to the off-site command post and later transported by ambulance to a local hospital. Two other volunteer fire fighters suffered minor injuries (not gunshot-related) during their escape from the porch and were treated and released.
- Police were not on scene at time door was forced open
- Fire Fighter Identification (lack of standardized station uniform) and time of evening
- Lack of communication of important information to responders (presence of firearms in residence)
- Resident did not acknowledge multiple attempts by fire department to contact him verbally and by knocking on front door
- Fire fighters/paramedics not wearing ballistic vests or personal protective equipment.
- Fire, EMS, police departments, and dispatch agencies should ensure that police are the primary agency initially assigned to “check on the welfare” of occupants and that information regarding weapons in a residence are communicated to all of the responding agencies
- Fire and EMS departments should implement standard operating procedures requiring fire fighters and EMS providers to present themselves in uniforms that readily identify them to be emergency responders
- Fire, EMS, police departments and dispatch agencies should ensure important responder safety information is requested during the call taking process and that information is transferred into the dispatch system and provided to first responders.