What’s On Your Radar Screen?

BuildingsonFire 2010; Building Construction, Command Risk Management and Operational Safety


Major Influencing Fire Service Reports, Issues or Focus that should be on Your Radar Screen

The following list is but a modest cross section of pertinent information or focus areas today’s Firefighter, Company or Command Officer MUST be knowledgeable in, have insights and proficiency based technical skills to function with a level of competencies demanded in  today’s  fire service.

If these are not on your radar screen or you haven’t got a blip of a clue what they’re about; then you are derelict and not doing your job- and the end result could be a less than desirable outcome on the fireground; it’s that simple, it’s that direct.

Have you read these reports, understand the issues & influences, increased your knowledge, skills and abilities in any gap areas or taken the time to research the cutting edge issues affecting today’s fire service?

The City of Charleston Sofa Super Store LODD-Routley Fire Report

Read the report; understand the incident, the building performance, the fire behavior and the operation process deployed. Gain the insights from the overall apparent and contributing causes identified and presented and assess how these relate to your fire service perspective and department’s culture and performance today.

  • City of Charleston Post Incident Assessment and Review Team Phase I Report, HERE
  • Routley Final Phase II Report HERE
  • NIOSH Investigative Report, HERE


  • NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
  • develop, implement and enforce written standard operating procedures (SOPs) for an occupational safety and health program in accordance with NFPA 1500
  • develop, implement, and enforce a written Incident Management System to be followed at all emergency incident operations
  • develop, implement, and enforce written SOPs that identify incident management training standards and requirements for members expected to serve in command roles
  • ensure that the Incident Commander is clearly identified as the only individual with overall authority and responsibility for management of all activities at an incident
  • ensure that the Incident Commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning interior fire fighting operations
  • train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates
  • ensure that the Incident Commander establishes a stationary command post, maintains the role of director of fireground operations, and does not become involved in fire-fighting efforts
  • ensure the early implementation of division / group command into the Incident Command System
  • ensure that the Incident Commander continuously evaluates the risk versus gain when determining whether the fire suppression operation will be offensive or defensive
  • ensure that the Incident Commander maintains close accountability for all personnel operating on the fireground
  • ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed at each structure fire
  • ensure that crew integrity is maintained during fire suppression operations
  • ensure that a rapid intervention crew (RIC) / rapid intervention team (RIT) is established and available to immediately respond to emergency rescue incidents
  • ensure that adequate numbers of staff are available to immediately respond to emergency incidents
  • ensure that ventilation to release heat and smoke is closely coordinated with interior fire suppression operations
  • conduct pre-incident planning inspections of buildings within their jurisdictions to facilitate development of safe fireground strategies and tactics
  • consider establishing and enforcing standardized resource deployment approaches and utilize dispatch entities to move resources to fill service gaps
  • develop and coordinate pre-incident planning protocols with mutual aid departments
  • ensure that any offensive attack is conducted using adequate fire streams based on characteristics of the structure and fuel load present
  • ensure that an adequate water supply is established and maintained
  • consider using exit locators such as high intensity floodlights or flashing strobe lights to guide lost or disoriented fire fighters to the exit
  • ensure that Mayday transmissions are received and prioritized by the Incident Commander
  • train fire fighters on actions to take if they become trapped or disoriented inside a burning structure
  • ensure that all fire fighters and line officers receive fundamental and annual refresher training according to NFPA 1001 and NFPA 1021
  • implement joint training on response protocols with mutual aid departments
  • ensure apparatus operators are properly trained and familiar with their apparatus
  • protect stretched hose lines from vehicular traffic and work with law enforcement or other appropriate agencies to provide traffic control
  • ensure that fire fighters wear a full array of turnout clothing and personal protective equipment appropriate for the assigned task while participating in fire suppression and overhaul activities
  • ensure that fire fighters are trained in air management techniques to ensure they receive the maximum benefit from their self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
  • develop, implement and enforce written SOPS to ensure that SCBA cylinders are fully charged and ready for use
  • use thermal imaging cameras (TICs) during the initial size-up and search phases of a fire
  • develop, implement and enforce written SOPs and provide fire fighters with training on the hazards of truss construction
  • establish a system to facilitate the reporting of unsafe conditions or code violations to the appropriate authorities
  • ensure that fire fighters and emergency responders are provided with effective incident rehabilitation
  • provide fire fighters with station / work uniforms (e.g., pants and shirts) that are compliant with NFPA 1975 and ensure the use and proper care of these garments.

Additionally, federal and state occupational safety and health administrations should:

  • consider developing additional regulations to improve the safety of fire fighters, including adopting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus standards.

Additionally, manufacturers, equipment designers, and researchers should:

  • continue to develop and refine durable, easy-to-use radio systems to enhance verbal and radio communication in conjunction with properly worn SCBA
  • conduct research into refining existing and developing new technology to track the movement of fire fighters inside structures.

Additionally, code setting organizations and municipalities should:

  • require the use of sprinkler systems in commercial structures, especially ones having high fuel loads and other unique life-safety hazards, and establish retroactive requirements for the installation of fire sprinkler systems when additions to commercial buildings increase the fire and life safety hazards
  • require the use of automatic ventilation systems in large commercial structures, especially ones having high fuel loads and other unique life-safety hazards.

Additionally, municipalities and local authorities having jurisdiction should:

  • coordinate the collection of building information and the sharing of information between building authorities and fire departments
  • consider establishing one central dispatch center to coordinate and communicate activities involving units from multiple jurisdictions
  • ensure that fire departments responding to mutual aid incidents are equipped with mobile and portable communications equipment that are capable of handling the volume of radio traffic and allow communications among all responding companies within their jurisdiction.

Everyone Goes Home Campaign

  • Everyone Goes Home® is a national program by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to prevent line-of-duty deaths and injuries. In March 2004, a Firefighter Life Safety Summit was held to address the need for change within the fire service. At this summit, the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives were created and a program was born to ensure that Everyone Goes Home®.
  • Recognizing the need to do more to prevent line-of-duty deaths and injuries, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has launched a national initiative to bring prevention to the forefront.
  • In March 2004, the Firefighter Life Safety Summit was held in Tampa, Florida to address the need for change within the fire and emergency services. Through this meeting, 16 Life Safety Initiatives were produced to ensure that Everyone Goes Home®.
  • The first major action was to sponsor a national gathering of fire and emergency services leaders. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation will play a major role in helping the U.S. Fire Administration meet its stated goal to reduce the number of preventable firefighter fatalities. The Foundation sees fire service adoption of the summit’s initiatives as a vital step in meeting this goal.
  • The Courage to Be Safe® On-Line Program , HERE
  • Media CenterUsing variations of the Courage to Be Safe ®…So Everyone Goes Home® field program, along with material from the Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives Resource Kit we will develop and deploy a new online learning segment each month. These online learning segments will allow you to expand upon your personal and professional development when you want and how you want. Watch them by yourself or integrate them into your organizational training programs. Remember, that safety results from constant training and putting those skills to work everyday, on every call – SO EVERYONE GOES HOME. HERE
  • The Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives Advocates Program will play a key role in helping to bring about awareness of the Initiatives and act as a conduit for resources to enable departments to implement and advocate them. HERE
  • The 16 Fire Fighter Life Safety Initiatives
    1. Define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety; incorporating leadership, management, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility.
    2. Enhance the personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service.
    3. Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities.
    4. All firefighters must be empowered to stop unsafe practices.
    5. Develop and implement national standards for training, qualifications, and certification (including regular recertification) that are equally applicable to all firefighters based on the duties they are expected to perform.
    6. Develop and implement national medical and physical fitness standards that are equally applicable to all firefighters, based on the duties they are expected to perform.
    7. Create a national research agenda and data collection system that relates to the initiatives.
    8. Utilize available technology wherever it can produce higher levels of health and safety.
    9. Thoroughly investigate all firefighter fatalities, injuries, and near misses.
    10. Grant programs should support the implementation of safe practices and/or mandate safe practices as an eligibility requirement.
    11. National standards for emergency response policies and procedures should be developed and championed.
    12. National protocols for response to violent incidents should be developed and championed.
    13. Firefighters and their families must have access to counseling and psychological support.
    14. Public education must receive more resources and be championed as a critical fire and life safety program.
    15. Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers.
    16. Safety must be a primary consideration in the design of apparatus and equipment.

NIST Wind Driven Fire Study

  • Smoke and heat spreading through the corridors and the stairs of a building during a fire can limit building occupants’ ability to escape and can limit fire fighters’ ability to rescue them.  Changes in the building’s ventilation or presence of an external wind can increase the energy release of the fire.  This can also increase the spread of fire gases through the building.  In some cases, such as the Cook County Administration Building fire in October 2003, the fire gas flow, into the corridors and the stairway prevented fire fighters from suppressing the fire from inside the structure.  This fire resulted in 6 building occupant fatalities and fire fighter injuries in the stairway.  The Fire Department of New York City has experienced many wind driven fire incidents which have resulted in fire fighter fatalities and injuries, as have a number of other incidents nationally that have resulted in increased research into this operational and tactical challenge.
  • What tactics or tools are appropriate for use with a wind driven fire and how should the tactics or tools be implemented?  Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) is being used by fire departments on smaller structures, such as single family homes, to control the fire flow by introducing pressure from the front door and venting the house through a strategic exit opening.  If done correctly, this tactic can remove significant amounts of heat and smoke from the structure, thus improving the fire fighters’ working environment and improving the chances of survival for the building occupants.  NIST has completed several studies which have a two fold impact: 1) providing guidance on the safe use of PPV and 2) characterizing and validating the modeling of PPV with a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) computer model, so that the model can be used as a training tool for the fire service.
  • This project extends previous work for ventilation under wind driven conditions.  There are many questions regarding wind driven fires.  For example can these PPV fans be used successfully under wind driven fire conditions in large structures?  Large structures, such as high rise buildings, provide additional challenges to fire fighter and building occupant safety: increased travel distance (exposure time), more complicated egress path, and potentially larger fires.  In 2002 there were 7,300 reported fires in high rise structures.
  • Other tactics incorporating devices, such as wind control devices (WCD) to control the ventilation conditions or the use of a “high rise” nozzle from the floor below the fire floor have been tried by the fire service under “real fire” conditions with varying levels of success.
  • A comprehensive free DVD set from the NIST includes a presentation video that explains PPV, examines the results of NIST’s PPV research, and closes with a focus on the use of PPV tactics in high-rise buildings.  All of the NIST PPV reports referenced in the presentation are included on Disc 1 of the set.  All of the videos from the high-rise fire experiments are also provided with a user-friendly, graphic menu that can be used on a PC or a DVD player.  NIST, with support from USFA, DHS, and fire departments across the country, has taken engineering principles and applied them to fire service PPV tactics in order to improve fire fighter safety
  • NIST References HERE and HERE

NIST Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions: Laboratory Experiments

  • A series of experiments was conducted in our Large Fire Laboratory to examine the impact of wind control curtains and externally applied hose streams on a wind driven fire.  The results from these experiments will allow us to better understand the fire dynamics within a structure and provide guidance as to the important measurements needed in the future experiments in a high-rise on Governor’s Island in New York City.
  • Fire Fighting Tactics Under Wind Driven Conditions Report, HERE
  • Reference Data HERE

NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study; Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiments

  • The NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study; Titled- Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiments was recently released to the public providing . A copy of the report is attached.
  • Report Abstract:
  • Service expectations placed on the fire service, including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), response to natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, and acts of terrorism, have steadily increased. However, local decision-makers are challenged to balance these community service expectations with finite resources without a solid technical foundation for evaluating the impact of staffing and deployment decisions on the safety of the public and firefighters. For the first time, this study investigates the effect of varying crew size, first apparatus arrival time, and response time on firefighter safety, overall task completion, and interior residential tenability using realistic residential fires.
  • This study is also unique because of the array of stakeholders and the caliber of technical experts involved. Additionally, the structure used in the field experiments included customized instrumentation; all related industry standards were followed; and robust research methods were used. The results and conclusions will directly inform the NPFA 1710 Technical Committee, who is responsible for developing consensus industry deployment standards.
  • This report presents the results of more than 60 laboratory and residential fireground experiments designed to quantify the effects of various fire department deployment configurations on the most common type of fire—a low hazard residential structure fire. For the fireground experiments, a 2,000 sq ft (186 m2), two-story residential structure was designed and built at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville, MD. Fire crews from Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County.
  • Report results quantify the effectiveness of crew size, first-due engine arrival time, and apparatus arrival stagger on the duration and time to completion of the key 22 fireground tasks and the effect on occupant and firefighter safety.
  • The report is also available for download at the NIST, HERE
  • Synopsis HERE

USFA/NIST Trends in Firefighter Fatalities Due to Structural Collapse, 1979-2002

  • Between the years 1979 and 2002 there were over 180 firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse, not including those firefighters lost in 2001 in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. Structural collapse is an insidious problem within the fire fighting community. It often occurs without warning and can easily cause multiple fatalities.
  • As part of a larger research program to help reduce firefighter injuries and fatalities the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) funded the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to examine records and determine if there were any trends and/or patterns that could be detected in firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse. If so, these trends could be brought immediately to the attention of training officers and incident commanders and investigated further to determine probable causes.
  • Report: Trends in Firefighter Fatalities Due to Structural Collapse1979-2002
  • Report: Early Warning Capabilities for Firefighters:Testing of Collapse Prediction Technologies

UL Fire Academy CBT

  • UL Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions
  • Base on the UL research and
  • This two-hour presentation summarizes a research study on the hazards posed to firefighters by the use of lightweight construction and engineered lumber in floor and roof designs. This free on-line computer based presentation will allow fire professionals to better interpret fire hazards and assess risk for life safety of building occupants and firefighters.
  • This online firefighter training course is the result of a research partnership among UL, the Chicago Fire Department, IAFC, and Michigan State University, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This self-guided course, which focuses on the structural stability of engineered lumber under fire conditions, is targeted toward the 1.1 million fire service personnel in the United States and Canada. The knowledge developed and shared in this course is critically important to firefighter and civilian safety.
  • This two-hour presentation summarizes a research study on the hazards posed to firefighters by the use of lightweight construction and engineered lumber in floor and roof designs. This free on-line computer based presentation will allow fire professionals to better interpret fire hazards and assess risk for life safety of building occupants and firefighters.
  • Program Objectives:
  • Provide brief history of events leading up to DHS Grant tests
  • Identify the fire test hypothesis, parameters, and steps completed in the testing process
  • Compare tests results (legacy vs. modern construction)
  • Communicate learnings from our partners representing the fire service
  • Discuss code recommendations
  • UL University on-line Program HERE

USFA/NIST Trends in Firefighter Fatalities Due to Structural Collapse, 1979-2002

  • Between the years 1979 and 2002 there were over 180 firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse, not including those firefighters lost in 2001 in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. Structural collapse is an insidious problem within the fire fighting community. It often occurs without warning and can easily cause multiple fatalities.
  • As part of a larger research program to help reduce firefighter injuries and fatalities the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) funded the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to examine records and determine if there were any trends and/or patterns that could be detected in firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse. If so, these trends could be brought immediately to the attention of training officers and incident commanders and investigated further to determine probable causes.
  • Report: Trends in Firefighter Fatalities Due to Structural Collapse1979-2002
  • Report: Early Warning Capabilities for Firefighters:Testing of Collapse Prediction Technologies


  • Each year an average of 105 fire fighters die in the line of duty. To address this continuing national occupational fatality problem, NIOSH conducts independent investigations of fire fighter line of duty deaths. The dedicated web page provides access to NIOSH investigation reports and other fire fighter safety resources.
  • NIOSH Web Page HERE
  • Through the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, NIOSH conducts investigations of fire fighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not seek to determine fault or place blame on fire departments or individual fire fighters, but to learn from these tragic events and prevent future similar events.
  • Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Reports, HERE

NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters using Risk Management Principles at Structure Fires

  • Fire fighters are often killed or injured when fighting fires in abandoned, vacant, and unoccupied structures.
  • These structures pose additional and sometimes unique risks due to the potential for fire fighters to encounter unexpected and unsafe building conditions such as dilapidation, decay, damage from previous fires and vandals, and other factors such as uncertain occupancy status. Risk management principles must be applied at all structure fires to ensure the appropriate strategy and tactics are used based on the fireground conditions encountered.
  • Report HERE

NIOSH Report; Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters Working Above Fire Damaged Floors

  • Fire fighters are at risk of falling through fire-damaged floors. Fire burning underneath floors can significantly degrade the floor system with little indication to fire fighters working above.
  • Floors can fail within minutes of fire exposure, and new construction technology such as engineered wood floor joists may fail sooner than traditional construction methods.
  • NIOSH recommends that fire fighters use extreme caution when entering any structure that may have fire burning beneath the floor.
  • Report HERE

NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters due to Truss System Failures

  • Fire fighters may be injured and killed when fire-damaged roof and floor truss systems collapse, sometimes without warning.
  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests assistance in preventing injuries and deaths of fire fighters due to roof and floor truss collapse during fire-fighting operations. Roof and floor truss system collapses in buildings that are on fire cannot be predicted and may occur without warning.
  • NIOSH recommends that fire departments review their occupational safety programs and standard operating procedures to ensure they include safe work practices in and around structures that contain trusses. Building owners should follow proper building codes and consider posting building construction information outside a building to advise fire fighters of the conditions they may encounter.
  • ALERT Report HERE

National Near Miss Reporting System (NNMRS) Operating Experience

  • The National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System is a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive and secure reporting system with the goal of improving fire fighter safety.
  • Submitted reports will be reviewed by fire service professionals. Identifying descriptions are removed to protect your identity. The report is then posted on this web site for other fire fighters to use as a learning tool.
  • National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System Web Site, HERE
  • Search Reports, HERE
  • Resources, HERE

USFA Incident Reports (Stop History Repeating Events-HRE)

  • USFA provides information resources in many formats, including books, pamphlets and DVD’s, free of charge.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration develops reports on selected major fires throughout the country. The fires usually involve multiple deaths or a large loss of property. But the primary criterion for deciding to do a report is whether it will result in significant “lessons learned.” In some cases these lessons bring to light new knowledge about fire–the effect of building construction or contents, human behavior in fire, etc. In other cases, the lessons are not new but are serious enough to highlight once again, with yet another fire tragedy report. In some cases, special reports are devel­oped to discuss events, drills, or new technologies which are of interest to the fire service.
  • The reports are sent to fire magazines and are distributed at National and Regional fire meetings. The International Association of Fire Chiefs assists the USFA in disseminating the findings throughout the fire service. On a continuing basis the reports are available on request from the USFA; announce­ments of their availability are published widely in fire journals and newsletters
  • This body of work provides detailed information on the nature of the fire problem for policymakers who must decide on allocations of resources between fire and other pressing problems, and within the fire service to improve codes and code enforcement, training, public fire education, building technology, and other related areas.
  • The Fire Administration, which has no regulatory authority, sends an experienced fire investigator into a community after a major incident only after having conferred with the local fire authorities to insure that the assistance and presence of the USFA would be supportive and would in no way interfere with any review of the incident they are themselves conducting. The intent is not to arrive during the event or even immediately after, but rather after the dust settles, so that a complete and objective review of all the important aspects of the incident can be made
  • Technical Reports and On-line Publications, HERE

Prince William County (VA) Fire Rescue Kyle Wilson LODD Report

  • The Prince William County (VA) Department of Fire and Rescue published a comprehensive line of duty death report for Technician I Kyle R. Wilson on Saturday, January 26, 2008. Technician I Wilson was the first line of duty death in the Department’s 41-year history. The Department is sharing the LODD Investigative Report to honor Kyle, and in an effort to reduce and prevent firefighter line of duty deaths at the local, region, state, and national levels.
  • Technician Kyle Robert Wilson was 24-years old and was born in Olney, Maryland. He grew up in Prince William County and graduated from Hylton High School and George Mason University. He was an avid baseball and softball player. Technician Wilson joined the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue on January 23, 2006. Technician Kyle Wilson died in the line of duty on April 16, 2007 while performing search and rescue operations at a house fire on Marsh Overlook Drive, located in the Woodbridge area of Prince William County. On that day, Technician Wilson was part of the firefighter staffing on Tower 512 which responded to the house fire that was dispatched at 0603 hours. The Prince William County area was under a high wind advisory as a nor’eastern storm moved through the area. Sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts up to 48 mph were prevalent in the area at the time of the fire dispatch to Marsh Overlook Drive.
  • Initial arriving units reported heavy fire on the exterior of two sides of the single family house and crews suspected that the occupants were still inside the house sleeping because of the early morning hour. A search of the upstairs bedroom commenced for the possible victims. A rapid and catastrophic change of fire and smoke conditions occurred in the interior of the house within minutes of Tower 512’s crew entering the structure.
  • Technician Wilson became trapped and was unable to locate an immediate exit out of the hostile environment. Mayday radio transmissions were made by crews and by Technician Kyle Wilson of the life-threatening situation. Valiant and repeated rescue attempts to locate and remove Technician Wilson were made by the firefighting crews during extreme fire, heat and smoke conditions. Firefighters were forced from the structure as the house began to collapse on them and intense fire, heat and smoke conditions developed. Technician Wilson succumbed to the fire and the cause of death was reported by the medical examiner to be thermal and inhalation injuries.
  • The Department of Fire and Rescue immediately formed a multi-dimensional investigation team following the incident. The investigation team was comprised of five Department of Fire and Rescue uniform personnel and two external members from area fire departments. For eight months, the team thoroughly examined the events that occurred at the Marsh Overlook fire incident and identify the factors involved with the line of duty death of Technician I Kyle Wilson. The resulting report represents thousands of hours of effort to analyze fire and rescue operations and is a factual representation of the events that occurred. The report also provides a frame work for organizational level improvements.
  • The major factors in the line of duty death of Technician I Wilson were determined to be:
    • The initial arriving fire suppression force size.
    • The size up of fire development and spread.
    • The impact of high winds on fire development and spread.
    • The large structure size and lightweight construction and materials.
    • The rapid intervention and firefighter rescue efforts.
    • The incident control and management.
    • The Marsh Overlook fire incident was an immense fire fueled by extremely flammable building material products and a vicious wind. It was an environment where information gathering and decision making had to be performed in the time measurement of seconds. During the chain of events that occurred and under severe circumstances, fire and rescue personnel performed at exceptional levels.
  • During the repeated attempts to reach and rescue Technician I Wilson, personnel displayed heroic efforts and jeopardized their own safety. The Department will never forget the sacrifice that Technician Wilson made in an attempt to ensure others were safe. By sharing the knowledge gained from this very tragic and painful incident, the Department will ensure his sacrifice was not in vain and hope that other fire and rescue departments can avoid another similar occurrence.
  • Resources and Report

Loudoun County (VA) Fire Rescue  Significant Near Miss Event Report

  • On May 25, 2008, fire and rescue personnel from Loudoun County responded to a structure fire at 43238 Meadowood Court in Leesburg, Virginia. During the course of the incident, seven responders were injured. Of those injured, four firefighters received significant burn injuries, two firefighters sustained orthopedic injuries, and one EMS provider was treated for minor respiratory distress. To date, five of the injured personnel have returned to duty. Two firefighters continue to recover from their injuries, including one who was severely burned.
  • Given the severity of the injuries and magnitude of the event, an independent Investigative Team was assembled to review the incident. The Team was comprised of four Loudoun County personnel, three external members from area fire departments, and two resource/support personnel. The Team was tasked with reviewing “the events leading up to the incident, the incident operation(s), the firefighter MAYDAY(s), and incident mitigation.”
  • For three months, the Team thoroughly examined the events surrounding the Meadowood Court fire incident and identified the factors associated with the injury of personnel.
  • The Report contains the results of the Investigative Team’s comprehensive review and analysis.
  • Fact Sheet, HERE

Worcester (MA) Fire Cold Storage Fire LODD Report; Abandoned Cold Storage Warehouse Multi-Firefighter Fatality Fire 1999, Worcester, Massachusetts

  • A technical review of the 1999 Worcester, MA fire that claimed six firefighters concludes that abandoned buildings are a serious threat to firefighters and fire departments must make a concerted effort to use technology to maintain data on buildings in their response districts.
  • On Friday, December 3, 1999, at 1813 hours, the Worcester, Massachusetts Fire Department dis­patched Box 1438 for 266 Franklin Street, the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. A motor­ist had spotted smoke coming from the roof while driving on an adjacent elevated highway. The original building was constructed in 1906, contained another 43,000 square feet. Both were 6 stories above grade. The building was known to be abandoned for over 10 years.
  • Eleven minutes into the fire, the owner of the abutting Kenmore Diner advised fire operations of two homeless people who might be living in the warehouse. The rescue company, having divided into two crews, started a building search. Some 22 minutes later the rescue crew searching down from the roof became lost in the vast dark spaces of the fifth floor. They were running low on air and called for help. Interior conditions were deteriorating rapidly despite efforts to extinguish the blaze, and visibility was nearly lost on the upper floors. Investigators have placed these two firefighters over 150 feet from the only available exit.
  • An extensive search was conducted by Worcester Fire crews through the third and fourth alarms. Suppression efforts continued to be ineffective against huge volumes of petroleum based materials, and ultimately two more crews became disoriented on the upper floors and were unable to escape. When the evacuation order was given one hour and forty-five minutes into the event, five firefighters and one officer were missing. None survived.
  • A subsequent exterior attack was set up and lasted for over 20 hours utilizing aerial pieces and del­uge guns from Worcester and neighboring departments. Task force groups from across the State of Massachusetts responded to initial suppression and subsequent recovery efforts. During this time, the four upper floors collapsed onto the second which became known as “the deck”. Over 6 million gallons of water were used during the suppression efforts. According to NFPA records, this is the first loss of six firefighters in a structure fire where neither building collapse nor an explosion was a contributing factor to the fatalities.
  • USFA Report HERE

Colerain Township (OH) Fire and EMS Department Final Report Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels Nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths

  • The Colerain Township (OH) Fire and EMS Department under the leadership of Director and Chief G. Bruce Smith recently released its final report Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths related to the April 4, 2008 Double Line of Duty Death of a Captain and Firefighter.  This investigative analysis and report, although specific to the events and conditions encountered during the conduct of operation at the residential occupancy at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane has pertinent and relevant insights, recommendations and factors that all Fire Service personnel, regardless of rank should read.
  • Incident Overview, HERE
  • NIOSH Report, HERE
  • Investigative Report, HERE

Field Trips

  • Take a good look at the structures, occupancies and  buildings in you first, second and third due areas, look around your community and jurisdiction as well as your mutual aid and greater alarm response box areas.
  • Have you stopped for a minute today and taken a good look around? Whether you’re sitting in the front seat at the stop light of an intersection or as you’re peering out the side cab window coming back from an alarm or while running errands in your POV; have you taken a good look around? As the Springsteen song goes; “this is your town”.
  • There’s a lot that can be gleaned from your surroundings on any given day. We sometimes take for granted the subtle changes that are happening all around us as we take care of business on our rounds, runs and calls. We tend to focus in on the immediacy of the events that are happening in front of us that demand our attention but fail to take a look around to pick up on information, data and insights that can help us on that next run or down the road in the future.
  • Take a look at the construction that might be going up in your areas. I’m certain you’re paying close attention to what’s happening in your first-due, but what about that third-due area, that neighboring jurisdiction or the mutual-aid area that you occasionally run in to? When you’re on that next EMS run or an investigation of an odor or alarm bells service call, take a few extra minutes to walk through the occupancy. Conduct your own mini company level pre-plan.
  • Look at the layout, features, access and construction features. If you have a chance, verify the structural support systems employed by the building for the floor and roof systems. If you have time, take the company on a quick site visit to that building that’s under construction or the renovations that are again underway in that commercial or business occupancy around the corner from quarters.
  • These continuing challenging economic times places a great deal of influence on what’s being built, how it might be constructed, the manner in which a building may be operational one day, vacant the other and under renovation the next. Sometimes these transformations occur literally overnight.
  • Take a good look around, this is your town…your district, your response area. Know your buildings, understand their performance profiles, and assess the predictability of performance. Remember; Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.

Building Construction

I continue to suggest that it’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations, although any seasoned firefighter and company officer knows that at times; it is what gets the job done under the most arduous and demanding of circumstances. However, from a methodical and disciplined perspective, aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments.

We can still meet the demands of the job, as firefighters; but do it with Tactical Patience and not at the expense of Command Compression and Tactical Entertainment or worst Operational Recklessness.

The traditional attitudes and beliefs of equating aggressive firefighting operations in all occupancy types coupled with the correlating, established and pragmatic operational strategies and tactics must be adjusted and modified to include intelligent risk assessment, calculated risk analysis, safety and survivability profiling, and strategic operational and tactical value. The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. As a result, risk management must become fluid and integrated with intelligent tactical deployments and operations recognizing the risk problematically and not fatalistically, resulting in safety conscious strategies and tactics. We need to think about the Predicative Strategic Process, refined Tactical Deployment Models integrating intelligent Structural Anatomy and Predictive Occupancy Profiling.

Without understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management, company level supervision and task level competencies…You are derelict and negligent and “not “everyone may be going home”. Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past conventional construction; risk assessment, strategies and tactics must adjusted and enhanced to address these new rules of structural fire engagement.
There is a profound need to gain building construction knowledge and insights and to change and adjust operating profiles in order to safe guard companies, personnel and team compositions.
It’s all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and the art and science of firefighting, Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety. Its all about the new formula….Bk=F2S.

Additionally, think about the following

  • Don’t Treat Your Buildings and Occupancies the Same anymore
  • Increase Situational Awareness
  • Increase Your Competencies
  • Know Your Buildings
  • Be aware of Command Compression
  • Implement Tactical Patience
  • Tactical Entertainment
  • Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety
  • Fire Behavior & Fire Dynamics
  • Situational Awareness
  • Naturalistic Decision Making

Filed Under: Anatomy of BuildingsFeaturedGeneral Miscellaneous


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