Are we learning from others mistakes?  
    Warehouse Fire Claims the Life of a Battalion Chief - Missouri 

    Over a year ago, a chief officer lost his life in a paper warehouse fire. It is truly unfortunate and saddens the fire service community when we loose a fellow firefighter. What is even more sobering is when an investigative report is compiled, recommendations are made and those recommendation are pushed aside or lay dormant. 

    We are into inferring that this is the case with this particular incident..... We are suggesting that if a firefighter looses his life, we should learn from that unfortunate experience so it does not happen again. 
    The following is a summary of the official report issued by NIOSH following its investion of the fatality of Battlion Chief in Missouri. Also attached to the report are two letters from NIOSH to the fire department. 
    On December 18, 1999, a 47-year-old male Battalion Chief (the victim) was fatally injured during a paper warehouse fire. Fire fighters were dispatched to the fire and upon arrival they immediately ordered all employees to evacuate the approximately 300,000-square-foot warehouse.  

    The fire was located in the paper-bale section and was causing the structure to fill with a haze of white smoke. The Incident Commander (IC) assumed overall command and ordered an interior fire attack. He also ordered the Battalion Chief (the victim) from Car 106 to take command of interior operations. 

    The fire fighters battled the fire for approximately 52 minutes before the IC and the victim decided conditions were deteriorating and they should go to a defensive attack. The IC ordered all fire fighters to evacuate the structure, however, several fire fighters’ radios malfunctioned and they did not receive the evacuation order. 

     Some of the fire fighters with the malfunctioning radios eventually ran out of air, became disoriented, and needed assistance to exit. The victim also became disoriented and did not exit. After learning that all the fire fighters except for the victim had exited, the IC ordered the two initial Rapid Intervention Teams (RITs) (RIT #1 and #2) to enter and search for the victim.  

    Both teams entered but eventually ran low on air and were forced to exit without the victim. Additional RITs were formed and found the victim approximately 1½ hours after the initial dispatch. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.  

    NIOSH investigators concluded that to minimize similar occurrences, fire departments should:  

    • ensure that the department’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are followed and refresher training is provided 
    • ensure that all fire fighters performing fire fighting operations are accounted for 
    • ensure that proper ventilation equipment is available and ventilation takes place when fire fighters are operating inside smoke-filled structures 
    • ensure that one of the first-arriving engines be assigned to pump water into the building’s fire department sprinkler connection to reinforce the automatic sprinkler system 
    • ensure that when entering or exiting a smoke-filled structure, fire fighters follow a hoseline, rope, or some other type of guide 
    • ensure that fire fighters are equipped with a radio that does not bleedover, cause interference, or lose communication under field conditions
    • ensure that when fire fighters suspect that they have been exposed to carbon monoxide that they notify their officer or the IC and receive the proper medical care 
    • ensure that a rehabilitation area is designated when needed 
    • ensure that the assigned Rapid Intervention Team(s) (RIT) complete search and rescue operations and are properly trained and equipped 
    • ensure consistent use of Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices at all incidents and consider providing fire fighters with a PASS integrated into their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus 
    • develop and implement a SCBA preventative maintenance program to ensure that all SCBAs are adequately maintained. 
    Additionally, building owners, supervisory staff, or employees should ensure that fires are reported to the fire department immediately. 

    Report Courtesy of NIOSH 

 Back Home