LODD Anniversary: Chicago Firefighters Killed, Injured in Roof Collapse

NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention
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Crews work to free fire fighters from Engine 72, Truck 49 and Truck 16 trapped under collapse. (NIOSH/fire department photo)

On December 22, 2010, a 47-year-old male (Victim # 1) and a 34-year old male (Victim # 2), both career fire fighters, died when the roof collapsed during suppression operations at a rubbish fire in an abandoned and unsecured commercial structure. 

Read the Report:
Two Career Fire Fighters Die and 19 Injured in Roof Collapse during Rubbish Fire at an Abandoned Commercial Structure 

The bowstring truss roof collapsed at the rear of the 84-year old structure approximately 16 minutes after the initial companies arrived on-scene and within minutes after the Incident Commander reported that the fire was under control. The structure, the former site of a commercial laundry, had been abandoned for over 5 years and city officials had previously cited the building owners for the deteriorated condition of the structure and ordered the owner to either repair or demolish the structure. 

The victims were members of the first alarm assignment and were working inside the structure. A total of 19 other fire fighters were hurt during the collapse.

Contributing Factors:

  • Lack of a vacant / hazardous building marking program within the city
  • Vacant / hazardous building information not part of automatic dispatch system
  • Dilapidated condition of the structure
  • Dispatch occurred during shift change resulting in fragmented crews
  • Weather conditions including snow accumulation on roof and frozen water hydrants
  • Not all fire fighters equipped with radios.

Key Recommendations:

  • Identify and mark buildings that present hazards to fire fighters and the public
  • Use risk management principles at all structure fires and especially abandoned or vacant unsecured structures
  • Train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates
  • Provide battalion chiefs with a staff assistant or chief's aide to help manage information and communication
  • Provide all fire fighters with radios and train them on their proper use
  • Develop, train on, and enforce the use of standard operating procedures that specifically address operations in abandoned and vacant structures

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