Death During Search, 2010 to Present Part II

Firefighter fatalities while searching for occupants

SearchAndDeathPart2


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The second part of this three part series looks at the fires and firefighters related to the fatality data in the time period discussed. To refresh, this series is looking at the details in the on-duty death data under the activity type ‘Search and Rescue’ from 2010 to present. Only those that occurred inside a burning structure are being reviewed.

Part I

In the range of years selected here are the numbers of fatalities:

2010: 1

2011: 4

2012: 0

2013: 3

2014: 4

2015: 1, presently

The following is a brief look at each incident where a firefighter fatality occurred during a search. If available, NIOSH and/or department investigation reports are referenced linked to the details presented. Incident numbers only relate to data gathering for writing and are not related to date of occurrence. The listing of “Victims Involved in Rescue of Occupants” is done based on the investigative reports and news coverage of the incident. This is counted based on specific statements in the report or common sense, i.e. with a fire in a residential high-rise still occupied when fire companies arrived we can logically assume that the victim was searching for occupants still inside the structure. “Point of Problem” is listed as the initial moment that specific actions or events occurred that are directly related to the victim’s death and is not to be misconstrued as a contributing factor from the available reports. This writing looks at the moment the situation turned bad for the victim during his search.

Victim’s Company Assignment

  • Engine Company: 5
  • Truck Company: 3
  • Rescue Company: 4
  • Other: 1

Victim, Company Arrival

  • First-Due or First-Arriving: 5
  • Second-Due: 1
  • Remainder of Initial Assignment: 3
  • Additional Alarm: 3
    • Working Fire: 2
    • Fourth-Alarm: 1
  • Self-Dispatched: 1

Victim, Company Staffing

Incident No.1: One Officer, One Engineer, One Firefighter

Incident No.2: One Officer, One Engineer, Three Firefighters

Incident No.3: One Officer, Five Firefighters

Incident No.4: Two Firefighters

Incident No.5: One Officer, Three Firefighters

Incident No.6: One Officer, Three Firefighters

Incident No.7: One Officer, Four-Five Firefighters

Incident No.8: One Acting Officer, One Chauffeur, Three Firefighters

Incident No.9: One Officer, One Fire Apparatus Operator, Two Firefighters

Incident No.10: One Officer, One Engineer, Two Firefighters

Incident No.11: One Officer, One Engineer, One Firefighter

Occupants

  • Reported in Initial Alarm: 4
  • Reported to Company Upon Arrival: 4
  • Obvious Rescues Upon Arrival: 2

Victims Involved in Rescue of Occupants: 3

  • 1 Victim searching for occupants before being overcome
  • 2 Victims searching for occupants inside a residential high-rise

Actual Occupants Rescued: 6 or more

  • Incident No.1: None
  • Incident No.2: 1
  • Incident No.3: 1 upon arrival
  • Incident No.4: 1
  • Incident No.5: Several located and removed by companies on the first- and second-alarm
  • Incident No.6: None
  • Incident No.7: Assumed; residential high-rise
  • Incident No.8: None
  • Incident No.9: At least three; residential high-rise
  • Incident No.10: None
  • Incident No.11: None

Mayday, Urgent or Radio Transmission Related to Victim

  • Mayday by Victim: 4
  • Mayday by Victim’s Officer: 3
  • Mayday by Incident Commander or Other: 5
    • Incident Commander: 1
    • Firefighter in Victim’s Company: 1
    • Nozzleman, First-Due Engine Company: 1
    • Other Company: 2

 

Residential Structures

Incident No.1

Kansas – 22 May 2010 – Single-Family Dwelling

2052 hours

Initial Alarm: Automatic Fire Alarm followed by multiple 911 calls and then upgraded

Initial Assignment: One Truck Company (1 Officer, 1 Firefighter); upgraded to 3 Engines, 1 Quint, 1 Battalion Fire Chief, 1 Medic

Victim Assignment: Firefighter on first-arriving engine company (1 Officer, 1 Engineer, 1 Firefighter)

Occupants: Reported inside to firefighters by neighbor

Fire: Inside downstairs garage with extension via interior stairwell. Heavy smoke on first floor upon entry

Actions: Command assigned victim’s company to search and rescue

Searching with a Hoseline? Yes   Charged? No

Point of Problem: Contact with victim was lost on first floor after family dog was found and removed (NIOSH F2010-13)

Mayday/Urgent: Called by victim’s officer

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 9 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 14 minutes

Occupants Rescued? None Inside

 

Incident No.2

Maryland – 19 January 2011 – Garden-Style Apartment Building

1855 hours

Initial Alarm: Spreading kitchen fire

Initial Assignment: 4 Engines, 2 Trucks, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 Division Chief. Working Fire: 2 Engines, 1 Squad (Rescue), 1 Medic

Victim Assignment: Acting Officer, Squad on Working Fire

Occupants: Obvious upon arrival; one in window threatening to jump

Fire: Inside ground floor apartment kitchen; out sliding glass door and extending up second floor balcony and interior stairway upon arrival

Actions: Search third floor and downward

Point of Problem: Cutoff by fire conditions on third floor (NIOSH F2011-02)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Called by victim

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 11 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 12 minutes

Occupants Rescued? Yes

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.3

Massachusetts – 8 December 2011 – Three-Story (triple-decker) Multi-Family Dwelling

0421 hours

Initial Alarm: Fire reported inside a residential structure; EMS on scene with occupant rescues

Initial Assignment: 4 Engines, 3 Trucks (1 as RIT), 1 Rescue, 1 District Chief

Victim Assignment: Firefighter in Rescue Company

Occupants: EMS crew on scene rescued one occupant and reported others still inside

Fire: In rear of structure with extension upward into decks and into floors above

Actions: Officer directed company to second floor to search for occupant reportedly still inside according to EMS

Point of Problem: Caught in collapse during secondary search as building began deteriorating (NIOSH F2011-30)

Searching with a Hoseline? Yes. Charged? Yes. Hoseline was left in place at point of first evacuation

Mayday/Urgent: No. Incident Commander called for an evacuation after Safety Officer reported collapse

Time from Arrival to Mayday: Approximately 30 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: Approximately 20 minutes

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.4

Maryland – 24 April 2013 – Three-Story Victorian-Converted Apartment House

0109 hours

Initial Alarm: Residential structure fire with occupants trapped

Initial Assignment: 4 Engines, 1 Truck, 2 Squads (Rescue), 1 Battalion Chief, 1 EMS Officer, 1 Medic; 1 Special Unit (self-dispatched)

Victim Assignment: Firefighter on Special Unit

Occupants: Occupants reporting a person trapped on second floor

Fire: Smoke showing from the rear; IC finds heavy fire in rear first floor extending to second floor

Actions: Victim and firefighter in Special Unit entered ahead of first engine company to search second floor for reported trapped occupant.

Point of Problem: Separated from partner; radio left in vehicle (NIOSH F2013-13)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Yes. Mayday called by engine company nozzleman after hearing PASS device activation and having no response from victim.

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 10 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 2 minutes

Occupants Rescued? Yes. 10 minutes after Mayday

Victim Involved? Yes

 

Incident No.5

Texas – 20 May 2013 – Three-Story Condominium Complex

0251 hours

Initial Alarm: Automatic Fire Alarm

Initial Assignment: 1 Engine, 1 Truck. Upgraded after report of fire showing by first truck: 2 Engines, 1 Truck, 2 Rescues (EMS)

Victim Assignment: Firefighter on Fourth-Alarm truck Company

Occupants: Occupants found and removed by from various locations by companies on the initial alarm and second-alarm

Fire: Fire through the roof at the A/B corner of the complex

Actions: Company assigned to search first floor of Building 5 in complex. NOTE: both NIOSH and Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office report having conflicting information regarding the Incident Commander’s directions.

Point of Problem: Structural collapse; master stream/defensive operations (NIOSH F2013-17) (TX FFF FY 13-07)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Yes, called by victim’s officer

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 39 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 11 minutes

Occupants Rescued? Yes

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.6 (Two Victims)

Ohio – 26 January 2014 (2) – Two-Story Mixed-Use structure, Apartment over Store

1447 hours

Initial Alarm: Apartment fire with people still inside

Initial Assignment: 5 Engines, 2 Rescues (EMS; staffing as the engine companies), 1 Truck, 1 Battalion Chief

Victim Assignment: Firefighters on first-due Engine Company

Occupants: Reported still inside in dispatch; all accounted for to Incident Command four minutes after arrival

Fire: Smoke showing from first floor

Actions: Company assigned to “Fire Attack’ by Incident Commander. No access to second floor, company advanced a line over ladder to second floor and began operating.

Point of Problem: Altered dispatch assignments; size-up errors; communication errors (NIOSH F2014-02)

Searching with a Hoseline? Yes   Charged? Yes

Mayday/Urgent: Yes. One by Victim 1; Two by Victims’ officer; Second by Victim 1, all within approximately one minute

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 10 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 14 minutes for one victim; 16 minutes for the other

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.7

New York – 5 July 2014 – 21-Story High-Rise Apartment Building

2110 hours

Initial Alarm: Smoke reported on 21st floor, followed by fire reported on 19th floor

Initial Assignment: 6 Engines, 3 Trucks, 1 Rescue, 1 Squad, various additional chiefs and support companies (approximate)

Victim Assignment: Officer of first-due Truck Company

Occupants: Assuredly inside; no initial reports of occupants trapped. One victim removed from 21st floor apartment

Fire: Fire inside 19th floor apartment

Actions: Search per department guidelines

Point of Problem: Caught in flashover, per official department statement (No report available)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Yes

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 22 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 12 minutes

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.8

New York – 19 December 2014 – Two-Story Single-Family Dwelling

0400 hours

Initial Alarm: Mutual aid house fire response (details unavailable)

Initial Assignment: Details unavailable

Victim Assignment: Firefighter on mutual aid Truck Company

Occupants: Details unavailable; none noted in narrative from state

Fire: Details unknown; likely a basement fire

Actions: Search, after checking in with Incident Commander, via the first-floor rear of the structure

Point of Problem: Poor accountability; unable to account for victim during withdraw search area (NYS PESH Investigation Narrative)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Yes

Time from Arrival to Mayday: Unknown

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: Unknown

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.9

Ohio – 26 March 2015 – Five-Story High-Rise Apartment Building

0531 hours

Initial Alarm: Fire in a second floor apartment; details unavailable

Initial Assignment: Details unavailable

Victim Assignment: Fire Apparatus Operator on Rescue Company

Occupants: Assuredly inside; reports of occupants trapped on floors above

Fire: Fire inside a second floor apartment; details unknown

Actions: Search of the floors above

Point of Problem: Presumably faulty elevator door contributed to victim’s fall (No NIOSH or department report available)

Searching with a Hoseline? No

Mayday/Urgent: Yes

Time from Arrival to Mayday: Unknown

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: Unknown

Occupants Rescued? Yes

Victim Involved? No

 

Commercial Structures

Incident No.10

North Carolina – 28 July 2011 – Six-Story High-Rise Office building

1228 hours

Initial Alarm: Automatic Fire Alarm

Initial Assignment: 2 Engines, 1 Truck, 1 Squad. Upgraded after on-scene report of smoke showing with 1 Engine, 1 Rescue, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 Division Chief, 1 Safety Officer, 1 Fire Marshak

Victim Assignment: Officer of Rescue Company

Occupants: Evacuating upon arrival of fire department

Fire: Top floor A/B corner

Actions: Secondary search

Point of Problem: Disorientation related to poor fire attack (NIOSH F2011-18)

Searching with a Hoseline? Yes   Charged? Yes. Problems with standpipe, supply and hoselines

Mayday/Urgent: Yes

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 45 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 21 minutes

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

Incident No.11

Texas – 15 February 2013 – One-Story Public Assembly Structure

2319 hours

Initial Alarm: Assembly hall fire; unknown if anyone is inside; no cars parked outside

Initial Assignment: 3 Engines, 1 Truck, 1 Medic, 1 Battalion Chief, 1 EMS Officer

Victim Assignment: Officer of First-Due Engine Company

Occupants: None

Fire: Fire through the roof of the A/B corner

Actions: Initial attack

Point of Problem: Became separated from firefighter during withdraw (NIOSH F2013-04)

Searching with a Hoseline? Yes   Charged? Yes

Mayday/Urgent: Yes

Time from Arrival to Mayday: 16 minutes

Time from Mayday to Finding Victim: 30 minutes

Occupants Rescued? No

Victim Involved? No

 

The final part will review contrasts between USFA data and NIOSH reports, summarize the findings and present items for further discussion and investigation.

Photo courtesy of NIOSH

 

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BioPicBill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.com, LawOfficer.com and FireEMSBlogs.com. Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince George’s County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville. Bill’s writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of “Fire Officer: Principles and Practice”, The Secret List and Tinhelmet.com. His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health was been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-

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