Albuquerque Fire Department; Learnings from Close Call Collapse and Fire Fighter Injuries

The Albuquerque Fire Department seeks to improve operations from past performance

Four firefighters with the Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department were injured during operations at a three-alarm fire that injured raged through the Royal Crown Apartment Complex in southeast Albuquerque on Friday February 4, 2011.

The injured firefighters were among four who fell through the floor from the second story to the first while searching for residents of the, according to the Albuquerque Fire Department. Both suffered leg injuries, one had minor burn, and they were treated and released from University of New Mexico Hospital a few hours later, an AFD spokesperson said.

According to published reports at the time of the event, the first alarm came in at 3 p.m. bringing personnel and apparatus to the three-story building at 4801 Gibson SE. First units on the scene reported heavy smoke and flames on the north side of the building.

A crew from AFD Engine 13 entered the building and during a search rescued two uninjured residents from one apartment and also save a cat.

At 3:40 p.m. Incident command transitioned to a defense operations to fight the fire from outside the building. The third alarm was transmitted due to the projected heavy fuel load in the large complex.

Overall 75 fire personnel responded and operated at the alarm.

The fire is believed to have started behind a washing machine in the first-floor laundry room. An electric cause is suspected, but AFD said the exact cause is still under investigation.

The three-story multiple occupancy apartment complex was built in 1976 and housed 47 apartment units in 31,896 square feet of space.

In the months since the fire, the Albuquerque Fire Department has conducted a critique and post incident assessment of the operations, mayday and close-calls and overall performance of the department. As reported in the media video leading into this article, the department has taken the results of that post incident assessment and has developed training being delivered to al personnel to increase future operational performance, efficiencies and to reduce the likely hood of a similar event from occurring.

According to the Fire Department, they were playing catch-up from the early advancing stages of the incident and experienced difficulty in being able to make strategic strides to get ahead of the escalating incident severity, magnitude and rapid development.

The unexpected events leading to the multiple maydays and firefighter injuries challenged incident command and operations and could have resulted in possible multiple firefighter LODDs versus the close-call, near-miss events that subsequently lead towards the efforts to undertake critical review of the incident and operations.

Some Insights and Learning’s from the Incident included that have resulted in enhancements;

  • Communications
  • Situational Awareness
  • Calling the Mayday
  • Radio Communications
  • Distractions and Error Prevention
  • Accountability
  • Command Response to Mayday Events
  • Communications Mayday Alerts

It is imperative that all departments initiate at the least a formal or informal post incident critique or review. This may be at the company or station level or escalated to a more formal department level assessment and review based upon the incident parameters and conditions.

The initiation and development of post incident analysis or assessment can be more involving and complex, with the commitment of personnel, resources and time but the benefits derived from such a review will contribute highly to the continued development and improvement of any organization.

There are a number of recent after action, post incident or assessments reports that have been published and have been reviewed and discussed here on

Take the time to review your incidents and runs at the company, station or battalion level. These reviews will identify and address low threshold, latent or emerging conditions before they escalate into apparent or root cause conditions that may contribute to significant adverse events and incidents.

The Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department’s self-critical review of this event has identified short comings at a number of levels that they are working to improve.

As they state in the video report, the outcome of this event could have been a lot worse than the injuries sustained and the resultant near-misses. The focus on improvements and enhancements within the functional areas of Calling the Mayday, Rapid Intervention and Mayday Communications and Operations is commendable and aligns with this year’s theme for Safety, Health and Survival Week.

The 2011 Safety Week theme is; Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness.

  • Previous Safety Week announcement and details; HERE.
  • We’ll post under a separate article details on the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program soon.

Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department’s Web Site, HERE

This year’s Safety Week will focus on delivering the online IAFF Fire Ground Survival (FGS) awareness training course to all fire departments. The program is the most comprehensive survival skills and MAYDAY prevention program currently available and is open to all members of the fire service. Additional planning tools and resources will be available on the Safety Week website.

The IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program (FGS) is the most comprehensive survival-skills and mayday-prevention program currently available and is open to all members of the fire service. Incorporating federal regulations, proven incident-management best practices and survival techniques from leaders in the field, and real case studies from experienced fire fighters, FGS aims to educate all fire fighters to be prepared if the unfortunate happens.

For links to the IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program, HERE and HERE

The program will provide participating fire departments with the skills they need to improve situational awareness and prevent a mayday. Topics covered include:

  • Preventing the Mayday: situational awareness, planning, size up, air management, fitness for survival, defensive operations.
  • Being Ready for the Mayday: personal safety equipment, communications, accountability systems.
  • Self-Survival Procedures: avoiding panic, mnemonic learning aid “GRAB LIVES”— actions a fire fighter must take to improve survivability, emergency breathing.
  • Self-Survival Skills: SCBA familiarization, emergency procedures, disentanglement, upper floor escape techniques.
  • Fire Fighter Expectations of Command: command-level mayday training, pre-mayday, mayday and rescue, post-rescue, expanding the incident-command system, communications.

Keep watching the website and the IAFC’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for continuing updates to this year’s program and planning resources.

Remember to visit the SHS Section’s website for more information on health and safety issues and the IAFF’s Health, Safety and Medicine’s website for more information on health, wellness and safety programs.

Additionally, look for a comprehensive series of articles, activities, insights, downloads, podcasts, video clips and resources that will be posted each day of Safety, Health and Survival Week here on, and

Announcements and campaign materials will begin posting in Mid-May.

We will be offering a special series of live shows nightly on Taking it to the Streets on and blogtalkradio during the week of June 19-25, 2011 addressing key issues with a stellar line-up of fire service leaders.

This will be an exceptional opportunity to listen in, call in and participate actively in the week’ theme of Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness.

These shows will be mission critical. Stay Tuned for more upcoming information.

Be Self-Critical and a Learning Organization

  • In the meantime think about your operations; are you self-critical and a learning organization seeking to identify gaps or areas for improvement?
  • There is a lot that can be learned from our daily responses and operations, whether they be that single company response or that multiple alarm incident.
  • All it takes is the recognition to see things for what they are and your may not be as good as you think and the understanding and desire to identify those conditions and improve .

Addtional Resources, videos and images related to the Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department’s operations at the Royal Crown Apartment Complex

Alpha Street Side View

Aerial View from the Delta Side

KASA News 13 photo by Alex Tomlin.

Filed Under: BuildingsonFireCommand CompressionCommand SafetySituational Awareness


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