Remembering the Sacrafice: Capt. Broxterman and FF Schira
On Friday, April 4, 2008 at 06:13:02 hours, what began as a routine response for Colerain Township Fire and EMS Engine 102 to investigate a fire alarm activation at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane, Colerain Township, Ohio resulted in the deaths of Colerain Township Captain Robin Broxterman and Firefighter Brian Schira.
Upon their arrival at the scene of the two-story wood framed, residential building working fire conditions existed in the basement. The initial attack team consisted of Broxterman, Schira, and one other firefighter. The team advanced a 1¾-inch attack hose line through the interior of the building for fire control.
Even though, they were provided with some of the most technologically advanced protective clothing for structural firefighting and self-contained breathing apparatus, it appeared that Broxterman and Schira were overwhelmed by severe fire conditions in the basement.
During their attempt to evacuate the building, the main-level family room flooring system in which the two were traveling on collapsed into the basement trapping the firefighters. Eleven minutes elapsed from time of arrival to the catastrophic chain of events.
This is one of those distinctive reports that has influential and critical operational, training and preparedness elements embedded throughout the report.
It’s apparent there continues to be common threads shared by this event from 2008 and other events and incidents in the past five years where a single of multiple firefighters have lost their lives due to similarities in the apparent and common cause deficiencies and short comings identified.
All company and command officers should read and comprehend the lessons learned. Then, take these new found insights and see what the gaps are at the personal level (yours or those you supervise) as well as the shift, group, station, battalion, division or department as a whole.
If there are gaps, then identify a way to implement timely changes as necessary so there are No History Repeating (HRE) events.
The importance of Reading the Building, taking the time to complete the three sixty and being combat ready and “expecting fire”.
Remember their sacrifice, so we can learn.
Past Post on CommandSafety.com with Report Narrative and Incident DetailsHERE
The following factors were believed to have directly contributed to the deaths of Captain Broxterman and Firefighter Schira:
A delayed arrival at the incident scene that allowed the fire to progress significantly;
A failure to adhere to fundamental firefighting practices; and
A failure to abide by fundamental firefighter self-rescue and survival concepts
Although the aforementioned factors were believed to have directly contributed to their deaths, they might have been prevented if:
Some personnel had not been complacent or apathetic in their initial approach to this incident;
Some personnel were in a proper state of mind that made them more observant of their surroundings and indicators;
The initial responding units were provided with all pertinent information in a
timely manner relative to the incident;
Personnel assigned to Engine 102 possessed a comprehensive knowledge of their first-due response area;
A 360-degree size-up of the building accompanied by a risk – benefit analysis
was conducted by the company officer prior to initiating interior fire suppression operations;
Comprehensive standard operating guidelines specifically related to structural
firefighting existed within the department;
The communications system users (on-scene firefighters and those monitoring the incident) weren’t all vying for limited radio air time;
The communications equipment and accessories utilized were more appropriate for the firefighting environment;
Certain tactical-level decisions and actions were based on the specific conditions;
Personnel had initiated fundamental measures to engage in if they were to become disoriented or trapped inside a burning building; and
Issued personal protective equipment was utilized in the correct manner.
Colerain Township Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, Web Site HERE
Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths April, 2010 Full Report HERE
NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2008-09| CDC/NIOSH July, 2009, Report HERE
On March 14, 2001 the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department lost firefighter Brett Tarver at the Southwest Supermarket fire.
Remembering Brett Tarver and the Lessons Learned
In that event, it was 5:00 in the afternoon, the grocery store was full of people and fire was extending through the building. Phoenix E14 was assigned to the interior of the structure to complete the search, get any people out, and attempt to confine the rapidly spreading fire to the rear of the structure.
Shortly after completing their primary search of the building the Captain decided it was time to get out. Tarver and the other members of Engine 14 were exiting the building when Tarver and his partner got lost.
Here’s a link to a previous post on Buildingsonfire.com that provides insights and report links that are as pertainent today, as they were in 2001.
Take the time to read the Phoenix Report as well as the NIOSH Report.
Rapid Intervention Team: Are You Ready? Mar 1, 2007 FireEngineering.com By Robert L. Gray; HERE If you were assigned to be a member of a rapid intervention team (RIT) during your next structure fire-or had to command a fireground rescue as a chief officer-are you confident that you would be up to the task of successfully responding to a firefighter Mayday?
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 provides participating fire departments with the skills they need to improve situational awareness and prevent a mayday. Topics 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.
U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study (1979-2001)
This study was conducted in an effort to stop firefighter fatalities caused by smoke inhalation, burns, and traumatic injuries attributable to disorientation. It focused on 17 incidents occurring between 1979 and 2001 in which disorientation played a major part in 23 firefighter fatalities.
A five -alarm fire on Sunday March 10, 2013 resulted in several firefighters nearly losing their lives, when a resulting backdraft or smoke explosion rapidly occurred during fire suppression operations in a mixed use occupancy building in Harrison, New Jersey.
Street View: What are the Building Profile Indicators that are obvious to you? Photo screen capture from Google Maps
According to published reports, the rapidly extending fire likely started in the kitchen of a Mexican restaurant on the 600 block of Frank E. Rogers Avenue before it quickly spread and engulfed the entire building, and the adjacent exposure.
Reported information states Investigators have stated this is the second time a fire has broken out in the restaurant.
Reading the Building and Maintaining focused Situational Awareness is Mission Critical. What do you see in this street view and what impact would it have on operations? Google Maps image capture
Fire Department officials have initially classified this as a backdraft as first published in the media. “The unfortunate thing with a back-draft is that initially there’s heavy smoke in the building,” said Captain Robert Gillen of the Harrison Fire Department, “all you need is an entrance of more oxygen and there’s a massive explosion.” Two of the firefighters had more extensive injuries than the other three.
A series of video screen captures has been developed to clearly depict the sequence of events that were apparent as the smoke conditions between the fire building and exposure occupancy rapidly and in a quick succession of seconds went from showing normal fire suppression operational smoke profiling to what would become a backdraft [like] explosion or smoke explosion affecting numerous operating interior and fireground companies.
Sequenced images of rapid changing smoke conditions and resulting explosion: Note there are conflicting interpretations as to this being a Backdraft or Smoke Explosion- Provided by Buildingonfire.com from video capture
The need to maintain concise and focused situational awareness during all phases and stages of fireground operations is imperative to identify conditions when subtle or rapidly changing situations and environments may present an opportunity to communicate and react accordingly.
It’s readily apparent that the rapidness of the smoke changes and pressures that can be seen dramatically sequenced into the explosion stage with little chance to initiate actions.
It should be noted that the brief series of frames in the video can not fully ascetain if this is truly a backdraft explosion or a smoke explosion. There are sublte differences in the intiating fire dynamics and sequence of events interior events.
The importance of understanding the building, the occupancy risk and the manner in which fire and the products of combustion typically travel within similar or unique occupancies and the manner in which commanders and officers monitor and maintain keen situ-awareness.
Recognizing fire behavior indicators and monitoring fire dynamics within the fire compartment and building envelope and the impact of fire suppression actions and intervention and external environmental factors require frequent monitoring and peridic status reports to maintain fluid and continuous assessment of conditions that may influence the conduct of operations.
This event continues to reinforce the need to never allow complacency creep to occur regardless how predictable or unchanging the commonality of the operations are being undertaken or conducted, in similar fashion to past successes in comparable occupancies and structures.
Check out the link and Follow-up discussion from Chief Ed Hartin (link HERE)
Reading the Fire
Before watching the video (or watching it again if you have already seen it), download and print the B-SAHF Worksheet. Using the pre-fire photo (figure 1) and observations during the video, identify key B-SHAF indicators that may have pointed to potential for extreme fire behavior in this incident.
Important! Keep in mind that there is a significant difference between focusing on the B-SAHF indicators in this context and observing them on the fireground. Here you know that an explosion will occur, so we have primed the pump so you can focus (and are not distracted by other activity).
Backdraft or Smoke Explosion
While smoke explosion and backdraft are often confused, there are fairly straightforward differences between these two extreme fire behavior phenomena. A smoke explosion involves ignition of pre-mixed fuel (smoke) and air that is within its flammable range and does not require mixing with air (increased ventilation) for ignition and deflagration. A backdraft on the other hand, requires a higher concentration of fuel that requires mixing with air (increased ventilation) in order for it to ignite and deflagration to occur. While the explanation is simple, it may be considerably more difficult to differentiate these two phenomena on the fireground as both involve explosive combustion.
Did you observe any indicators of potential backdraft prior to the explosion?
Do you think that this was a backdraft?
What leads you to the conclusion that this was or was not a backdraft?
If you do not think this was a backdraft, what might have been the cause of the explosion?
For more information in Backdraft, Smoke Explosion, and other explosive phenomena on the fireground, see:
The continuing importance of fire research and the strive to understand fire and its relationship to buildings, systems and firefighting operations is challenging long held beliefs and anecdotal basis; encouraging stimulating debate and discussions- resulting in thought provoking and insightful theories, positions statements and a time of retrospect and critical self-examination that will influence numerous facets of the fire service profession.
It’s not about NOT fighting fires, but rather fighting fires smarter.
Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
The Art and Science of Fire Fighting – Buildingsonfire
Firefighter Brian Carroll reflects on the 2011 Arlington Street Fire and Cold Storage Fire of 1999.
Firefighter Brian Carroll was trapped in the basement of 49 Arlington St. after the second-floor of the three-decker collapsed underneath him and his partner on Rescue 1. He thought his close friend was OK. Firefighter Carroll lay trapped and didn’t learn until after he was freed that Firefighter Davies had died.
“What happened to my brother, the three-decker collapsed in a way no one could predict,” Robert Davies said. “Certainly I think it serves as a lesson going forward, and even if it saves one life going forward, then at least something good came out of it.”
Firefighter Davies, who was 43 when he died, has a son, Jon D. Davies Jr., in the department now as a firefighter.
From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette; A cruel month for Worcester firefighters HERE
NIOSH REPORT Career Fire Fighter Dies and Another is Injured Following Structure Collapse at a Triple Decker Residential Fire – Massachusetts:HERE
Nothing is ever routine;…… pause to reflect and remember the demands of the job and the inherent risks and the sacrifices made each and every day in this noble profession of the fire service.
Another beloved brother firefighter’s sacrifice, protecting the citizens of his great city.
Chicago Captain Herbert Johnson, 54, suffered second- and third-degree burns during fire suppression operations being conducted in the attic of the residential house at 2315 West 50th Place, according to Chicago FD officials and published media reports. The 32-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department died Friday night after he and another firefighter were injured in a blaze that spread quickly through the 2-1/2 story wood frame house. The second firefighter injured was reported in good condition at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, according to a department spokeswoman.
Captain Johnson, was promoted from lieutenant this summer and was assigned to Engine Co. 123 in Back of the Yards Section of Chicago for the night tour but normally worked all around the city.
Companies were called to the 2-1/2-story wood frame house at 17:15 hours on Friday evening. During initial fire suppression operations, a mayday for a trapped firefighter was communicated around 17:30 hours. Immediate RIT and rescue deployments brought the Captain and the other firefighter out of the structure.
Research identifies the residential occupancy building as being built in 1896 (age 116 years) and constructed of a common balloon framing system (type V wood) with a wood gable roofing system. Published photographs suggests that both original wood sheathing and shinges were present with some new outer sheathing materials being added and renovated at some point with some OSB type sheathing installed with rigid insulation boards and an outer vinyl siding system. Records indicate the house was approximately 2000 square feet in size and measured approximately 20 ft. x 60 ft. County documents indicated the roofing system was an asphalt shinge system on a wood plank deck. Post event photopraphs depict the typical framing system components, wall and roof system and collapsed materials.
The firefighters may have been caught in a flashover within the attic compartment according to early reports according to reports from department spokesman Larry Langford. “This fire is under investigation, and our main concern right now is the family,” said Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, Santiago was joined at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Johnson died in the emergency room, by officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Captain Johnson was the first Chicago firefighter killed fighting a fire since two firefighters, FF Edward Stringer and FF Corey Ankum died battling a blaze at an abandoned South Shore laundry in December 2010. (see previous CommandSafety.com coverage HERE and HERE)
Published reports poignantly stated the following;
“On behalf of the people of the City of Chicago, I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbert Johnson, who tragically paid the ultimate sacrifice while battling a blaze early this evening,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement. “As we mourn Captain Johnson, we are all reminded of the dangerous job and selfless work of our brave firefighters. Being a firefighter is not simply a job, but a call to serve the public and greater good. In his 32 years protecting Chicago, Captain Johnson certainly exemplified the best traits in firefighters everywhere.”
Chicago ABC 7 News
Division A Streetside Photo by Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Division A, Street View Typical 2.5 story Wood Frame Residential – Google Street Maps.
“On behalf of the people of the City of Chicago, I want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbert Johnson, who tragically paid the ultimate sacrifice while battling a blaze early this evening,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement.
“As we mourn Captain Johnson, we are all reminded of the dangerous job and selfless work of our brave firefighters. Being a firefighter is not simply a job, but a call to serve the public and greater good. ”
“In his 32 years protecting Chicago, Captain Johnson certainly exemplified the best traits in firefighters everywhere.”
Chicago firefighter Herbert Johnson, left, poses with Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, right, after Johnson was promoted to the rank of captain. Johnson died from injuries sustained while fighting a house fire on the South Side. — Chicago Fire Department
Construction Insights for Typical Gabled Roof Attic with enclosed knee wall voids (typical examples)Occupied or Storage Attic Space Enclosure
Common attic spaces in buildings constructed of balloon framing systems may have the presence of knee wall voids or may have open ridge to eave
Knee wall spaces may be open to the compartment or may be enclosed and used for storage resulting in significant concentrated fire load. Inherent travel paths for fire due to non-fire stopped voids at the wall/eave interface results in concentrated fire impingement and degradation that can lead to isolated or catastrophic system failure and assembly collapse.
Age deterioration over many decades will commonly affect the structural integrity of the collar beams to maintain the structural stability of the roofing rafter system in the attic space. Renovations and alterations may also create operational risk hazards for conducting operations within fire induced attic compartments due to the absence of collar beams that further create unstable structural conditions to flame or heat affected roof components and systems.
Typical Enclosed Attic Voids and Kneewalls
Common Rafter Roof Framing Details- Buildingsonfire.com
Common Rafter Roof Framing Details- Buildingsonfire.com
Common Wood Gable Rafter Framing System- Buildingsonfire.com
Typcial Balloon Framing System with Gable Rafter Roof Framing- Buildingsonfire.com
Don’t neglect to be observant of construction features in contemporary construction such as this attic in a modular prefabricated residential house. Photo by CJ Naum
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council. The event is coordinated by the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section and the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program, and is supported by national and international fire and emergency service organizations as well as health and safety-related organizations and agencies.
The 2012 event will take place from June 17-23. The theme is Rules You Can Live By, which focuses on the Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety, Survival, and Health. Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all non-emergency activity during Safety and Health Week in order to focus on safety and health training and education. An entire week is provided to ensure all shifts and duty crew can participate.
The 2012 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week marks the unifcation of the IAFC’s Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week with the NVFC’s National Firefighter Health Week.
The goal of both organizations is to reduce the number of preventable injury and death in the fire and emergnecy services. Safety and Health Week focuses on the critical importance of responders taking care of themselves both on and off the emergency incident scene. The week is designed to increase awareness and action so that safety and health become a priority in all fire departments.
RULES YOU CAN LIVE BY
Make safety, health, and survival a priority for you and your department! This International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week, focus on what you can do to increase safe operations, improve your health, and reduce your risks of tragedy. These are rules we can ALL live by FOCUS ON SAFETY
The IAFC’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival and the Incident Commander’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety provide model procedures you can use as part of your standard opperating procedures/guidelines and firefighter safety training programs.
FOCUS ON HEALTH
Use the NVFC’s Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Health to learn what you need to do to protect your health and stay at your best.
All fire and EMS departments are encouraged to participate in International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week. The IAFC and NVFC will provide resources and tools to help your department focus on health and safety.
Press Release and Talking Points
Use the tools to help promote Safety and Health Week in your community and your department.
Steps for Getting Healthy This Safety and Health Week, look at the steps you and your department can take to help you get on the path towards good health so you can be at your best both on and off the job. Included are activity ideas and resources that can be implemented during Safety and Health Week to get you and your department started.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs developed these Rules of Engagement to provide best practice model procedures that departments can use as part of their standard operating procedures/guidelines and firefighter training programs.
The International Association of Fire Chief’s Safety, Health and Survival Section was established to provide a specific component within the IAFC to concentrate on policies and issues relating to the health and safety of firefighters.
The Near-Miss Reporting System has added a 2012 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week section to their Resources page, which includes near-miss grouped reports relating to the Rules of Engagement topics.
Plan to attend these free webinars as part of your Safety and Health Week activities.
Overcoming Wellness and Fitness Barriers in the Fire Service: A Study by Johns Hopkins University Tuesday, June 19 – 2:00 pm ET
Register at https://nvfc.webex.com under the Upcoming Sessions tab
Johns Hopkins University and the National Volunteer Fire Council have collaborated on a three-year research project to study health interventions in firefighters in Maryland. Participate in a one-hour webinar that will provide insight into the focus group feedback, barriers to wellness and fitness in the fire service, and how some departments have developed creative solutions to their wellness and fitness challenges.
FULL INVOLVEMENT: Firing Up Your Program
Wednesday, June 20 – 2:00 pm ET
Register at https://nvfc.webex.com under the Upcoming Sessions tab.
The course helps firefighters take the lead as a Health and Wellness Advocate by establishing a sound action plan for their department’s Wellness Program. Participants will learn strategies to ignite full involvement – from their officers to their community – in the support and success of the program. This includes building a wellness team, creating an annual plan, establishing methods of gathering and evaluating data, and securing sponsors to support the health and wellness program.
Health and Safety On-Demand Webinars
The NVFC offers a sereis of health and safety webinars that you can take on-demand. Click here to learn more and access the webinars. Courses include:
STOP: Seatbelts Top Our Priorities
Pump Operations and Maintenance
Health and Wellness Advocate Training
Health and Wellness Program Design
Heat Stress – Choosing the Right PPE
Obesity in the Fire Service
The Insulin Connection
The Impact of Stress on Firefighter Heart Health
Functional Fitness for Firefighters
Use International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week to continue your comprehensive focus on personal safety – on the fireground, while training, at the station, and while driving. Ongoing awareness of your surroundings and proactive measures to mitigate potential threats will help ensure that you can be there for your department, your family, and your community.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs developed these Rules of Engagement to provide best practice model procedures that departments can use as part of their standard operating procedures/guidelines and firefighter training programs.
The International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival Section was established to provide a specific component within the IAFC to concentrate on policies and issues relating to the health and safety of firefighters.
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 are reviewed by fire service professionals and identifying descriptions are removed to protect your identity. The report is then posted on this web site for other firefighters to use as a learning tool.
The NVFC has set forth their Firefighter Health and Safety Priorities in a series of B.E.S.T. Practices, which are divided into the four main categories of Behavior, Equipment, Standards and Codes, and Training. Learn the B.E.S.T. Practices and find resources for implementing them in your department.
The NVFC offers the S.T.O.P. (Safety Tops Our Priorities) training series on vehicle safety. The first course – Seatbelts Tops Our Priorities – is a 30-minute session that educates participants on the importance of using a seatbelt. The course examines how to encourage safety when responding to emergencies and how seatbelt use and safe vehicle operations can be enforced at the department level. The training is provided using an online platform from McNeil and Company’s Emergency Services Insurance Program (ESIP).
The NVFC and USFA created the Emergency Vehicle Safe Operations program to prevent firefighter deaths and injuries from vehicle accidents, which are historically the second leading cause of firefighter fatalities. This innovative educational program includes an emergency vehicle safety best practices self-assessment, standard operating guideline examples, and behavioral motivation techniques to enhance emergency vehicle safety.
Operations at 30 Dowling Circle 01.19.2011 Box 11-09
Mark Gray Falkenhan had dedicated his life to serving others. He perished in the line of duty on January 19, 2011 while performing search and rescue operations at a multi-alarm apartment fire in Hillendale, Baltimore County (Maryland). He was 43 years old.
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011, a fire occurred in an apartment building located in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County, Maryland. This fire resulted in the line of duty death (LODD) of volunteer firefighter Mark G. Falkenhan, who was operating as the acting lieutenant on Squad 303 . Upon their arrival, FF Falkenhan and a second firefighter from Squad 303 deployed to the upper floors of the apartment building to conduct search and rescue operations. Other fire department units were already involved with both firefighting operations and effecting rescues of trapped civilians.
During these operations, FF Falkenhan and his partner became trapped in a third floor apartment by rapidly spreading fire and smoke conditions. The second firefighter was able to self-egress the building by diving headfirst down a ladder on the front (address side) of the building. FF Falkenhan declared a “MAYDAY” and implemented “MAYDAY” procedures, but was unable to escape or be rescued.
FF Falkenhan was located and removed via a balcony on the third floor in the rear of the building. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued en route to the hospital. FF Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
The Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department published the Line of Duty Death Investgation Report of the 30 Dowling Circle Fire recently. The report was written by a Line of Duty Death Investigation Team comprised of departmental members, including representatives of the local firefighters’ union and the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
Baltimore County (MD) Fire Department web site HERE
The following is and executive narrative of the final report (PDF) on the apartment fire where Volunteer Firefighter Mark Falkenhan sustained fatal injuries. The entire report can be downloaded HERE .
The Baltimore Sun newspaper published an editorial about the death of Firefighter Falkenhan that is required reading; HERE . An excerpt from the editorial reads as follows:
FF Mark Falkenhan
The word “hero” gets used too often to describe the most pedestrian of admirable behaviors, from the star quarterback who marches his team for a winning score to the kid who finds a missing wallet and turns it in. But exceptional bravery, special ability, exceptional deeds and noble qualities — those are what define an authentic hero, and Mr. Falkenhan lacked for none of them.
It was not by accidental circumstance or naiveté that he ended up on the third story of that Hillendale apartment complex in the midst of a fire, searching for missing residents. He knew the risks as well as anyone could. But his selfless desire to help others drove him forward into the flames.
That’s what made him exceptional. That’s why his legacy is important. That’s why the community is in his debt.
Incident Executive Summary
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011, a fire occurred in an apartment building located in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County, Maryland. This fire resulted in the line of duty death (LODD) of volunteer firefighter Mark G. Falkenhan, who was operating as the acting lieutenant on Squad 303 (for purposes of this report, Mark will be referred to as FF Falkenhan). Upon their arrival, FF Falkenhan and a second firefighter (FF # 2) from Squad 303 deployed to the upper floors of the apartment building to conduct search and rescue operations. Other fire department units were already involved with both firefighting operations and effecting rescues of trapped civilians.
During these operations, FF Falkenhan and FF # 2 became trapped in a third floor apartment by rapidly spreading fire and smoke conditions. FF # 2 was able to self-egress the building by diving headfirst down a ladder on the front (address side) of the building. FF Falkenhan declared a “MAYDAY” and implemented “MAYDAY” procedures, but was unable to escape or be rescued. FF Falkenhan was located and removed via a balcony on the third floor in the rear of the building. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued en route to the hospital. FF Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Baltimore County Fire Department Standard Operating Procedures, Personnel #16, requires a team to be formed, a detailed investigation to be conducted and a report produced for any incident involving a line of duty life threatening injury or death. The team’s objective is to thoroughly analyze and document all the events leading to the injury or death and to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar occurrences in the future. At a minimum, a Division Chief, the Department’s Health and Safety Officer, a member from the Fire Investigation Division, an IAFF Local 1311 union representative, and the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association Vice President of Operations (when a volunteer member is involved) is required (see Acknowledgements section for actual team make-up).
The investigating team examined any and all data available, including independent analysis of the self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), turnout gear and autopsy report. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) produced a fire model to assist with evaluating fire behavior. Multiple site inspections were conducted. Extensive interviews were conducted by the team which also attended those conducted by investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Photographic and audio transcripts were also thoroughly analyzed. A comprehensive timeline of events was developed. All information used to make decisions regarding recommendations was corroborated by at least two sources.
In fairness to those units involved in this incident, the investigating team had the advantage of examining this incident over the period of several months. Furthermore, given the size and nature of the event, and the fact that arriving crews were met with serious fire conditions and several residents trapped and in immediate danger, all personnel should be commended for their efforts for performing several rescues which prevented an even greater tragedy.
The team did not identify a particular primary reason for FF Falkenhan’s death.
What were identified were many secondary issues involving but not limited to crew integrity, incident command, strategy and tactics, and communications.
These issues are identified and discussed, and recommendations are made in appropriate sections of the report, as well as in a consolidated format in the Report Appendix.
Some of the issues identified in this report may require some type of change to current practices, policies, procedures or equipment. Most, however, do not. Specifically, the analysis and recommendations regarding Incident Command and Strategy and Tactics show that if current policies and procedures are adhered to, the opportunity for catastrophic problems may be reduced.
Mark Falkenhan was a well-respected and experienced firefighter.
He died performing his duties during a very complex incident with severe fire conditions and unique fire behavior coupled with the immediate need to perform multiple rescues of victims in imminent danger.
It would be easy if one particular failure of the system could be identified as the cause of this tragedy.
We could fix it and move on. Unfortunately it is not that simple.
No incident is “routine”. Mark’s death and this report reinforce that fact.
On Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 1816 hours, a call was received at the Baltimore County 911 Center from a female occupant at 30 Dowling Circle in the Hillendale section of Baltimore County. The caller stated that her stove was on fire and the fire was spreading to the surrounding cabinets. Fire box 11-09 was dispatched by Baltimore County Fire Dispatch (Dispatch) at 1818 hours consisting of four engine companies, two truck companies, a floodlight unit, and a battalion chief. All units responded on Talkgroup 1-2.
The location, approximately one mile from the first dispatched engine company, is a three story garden-type apartment complex, with brick construction and a composite shingle, truss supported roof. The fire building contained a total of six apartments divided by a common enclosed stairway in the center with one apartment on the left and one to the right of the stairs.
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta will be used to designate the clockwise geographic locations of the structure, beginning with Alpha on the address side of the building . Entry is gained through the front split-level stairwell by a common entrance door with individual doors leading to each apartment. Each apartment consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and a living/dining area. There are sliding doors leading to either a wood joist deck/balcony on the second and third floor apartments, or a concrete patio on the first floor apartments. Utilities consist of gas service to the furnace and hot water heaters located in a utility closet in each apartment, with electric service to the remainder of the appliances, including the stove. Interior walls of the apartments are drywall over wood stud construction.
Floor coverings consist of carpeting over tile and concrete on the terrace/first floor. The second and third floor coverings consist of carpeting covering hardwood floors with a plywood subfloor. Interior doors are hollow wood construction. The door to the common hallway is of solid wood construction. The sliding doors to the deck/patio area are glass.
The development and construction of the Towson Crossing Apartments began in the early 1980’s. The buildings are rated in the existing building code for occupancy as Residential 2 (R2). The building code would describe the construction type as Type III. This construction type includes those buildings where the exterior walls are of non-combustible materials and the interior building elements are of any material permitted by the building code.
Building Construction and Features
The subject apartment building, 30 Dowling Circle, is a three story, middle of the group, apartment building constructed on a reinforced concrete slab. The Alpha and Charlie exterior walls are wood framed construction with brick veneer attached by brick ties. The Bravo and Delta exterior walls are block masonry construction and separate adjoining apartment buildings. The interior partition walls consist of wooden 2″x4″ wall studs covered with sheetrock. Paper faced insulation is found between the exterior walls, ceilings and party-walls that separate the apartments.
The apartment building contains six individual apartment units, which are approximately 1000 square feet in size per apartment unit. Two separate units are located on each floor and consist of two bedrooms, a living area, a dining area, a kitchen, and a bathroom. A utility closet is located in each of the living areas. The closet is located along the Alpha wall, and contains the water heater and furnace.
The building is not equipped with an automatic fire suppression system. Smoke detectors were noted; however, it is unknown if they were operational at the time of the fire. A fire extinguisher was noted on the landing between the second and third floor levels of the building.
From side Alpha the building has two and a half stories above grade while side Charlie is three stories above grade.
The first floor of the building is approximately five feet below ground level with a 20 foot set back from the apartment building parking lot. Side Charlie of the building is at ground level but slopes upward approximately 8 feet with a set-back of 110 feet from the rear alley.
The roof is constructed of a lightweight truss assembly consisting of 2″x6″ stringers connected by gusset plates. The truss assembly is covered with 5/8 inch plywood and asphalt shingles.
Floor and Ceiling
The floor assembly consists of 2×10 inch floor joists covered by plywood, wooden tongue and groove planking and finished with carpet. The joists run from Alpha to Charlie and are supported by the interior bearing walls. The kitchen floors in all of the units are covered with vinyl tile.
The ceilings throughout the building are sheetrock nailed to the floor joists of the apartment above with the exception of the third level in which the sheetrock is nailed to the roof joists.
The balconies are located on side Charlie of the building. The balconies located on levels two and three consist of 5/4″ deck boards over 2″x10″ wooden joists. The joists are cantilevered off of the floor/ceiling assemblies of levels one and two. The first floor balconies are made of concrete and are at ground level. All balconies are accessible through a single pane sliding glass door located in each apartment.
The first arriving engine, E-11, was staffed with a Captain, Lieutenant, Driver/Operator, and a Firefighter. Upon arrival at 1820 hours, the Captain gave a brief initial report describing a three story garden apartment with smoke showing from side Alpha: “The Captain of E-11 will have Command and we are initiating an aggressive interior attack with a 1 ¾” hand line”. Command also instructed the second due engine to bring him a supply line from the hydrant.
A female resident (victim # 1) appeared in a third floor apartment window, Alpha/Bravo side (Apt. B-1), yelled for assistance, and threatened to jump. Smoke or fire was visible from any of the third floor windows. At 1823 hours, Command advised Dispatch that he had a rescue and that he was establishing Limited Command. Fire Dispatch was in the process of upgrading the response profile to an apartment fire with rescue when the responding Battalion Chief requested that the fire box be upgraded to a fire rescue box. While the Firefighter and Lieutenant prepared for entry into the building, the Captain and Driver/Operator extended a ladder to the 3rd floor apartment window and rescued the resident. The first attempt by the Firefighter and Lieutenant to make entry into the side Alpha entrance was unsuccessful due to the extreme heat and smoke conditions.
Initial Arrival Conditions
The second due engine, E-10, arrived at 1823 with staffing of a Captain, Lieutenant, Driver/Operator, and a Firefighter. At 1823, E-10’s crew brought a 4″ supply line to E-11 from the hydrant at Deanwood Rd. and Dowling Circle and assisted the first-in crew with fire attack.
The Captain from E-10 conferred with Command and was instructed to advance a second 1 ¾” hand line.
The window to the first floor right apartment (Apt. T-2) was removed, and the second 1 ¾” line was advanced to the building by the crew of E-10.
Fire attack was initiated through the removed window. At 1827, Command requested a second alarm.
At this time, heat and smoke conditions just inside the front door improved enough to allow the Firefighter and Lieutenant from E-11 to make entry through the front door and into the stairwell. There they encountered heavy, thick black
smoke and high heat conditions coming up the stairs from the terrace level apartment. The Lieutenant reported that the doorway to the first floor apartment was orange with fire and he had to fight his way through heavy heat and smoke conditions to attack the fire in the first floor right apartment (Apt. T-2). Entry was made approximately 3 feet into the doorway when the Firefighter’s low air alarm began to sound, and he exited the building. A member from E-10’s crew replaced the Firefighter from E-11 on the hose line.
At the same time, the Captain from E-11 proceeded to the rear of the structure to complete his initial 360 degree size up. He noted that there was fire emanating from the open sliding doors on the first floor Charlie/Delta apartment (Apt. T-2), extending to the balcony above. E-1, staffed by a Captain, Driver/Operator, and two Firefighters arrived and completed the hookup of the supply line that had been laid to the hydrant by E-10. The rest of Engine 1’s crew grabbed tools and an extension ladder and reported to the Charlie side of the building.
Personnel stated that at this point fire conditions seemed to improve, suggesting that crews were making progress extinguishing the fire. (The first arriving attack crew reported that they were able to see apparatus lights through the sliding doors on Charlie side, which indicated to them that smoke and fire conditions were improving.)
Truck 1, a tiller unit staffed by a Lieutenant, two Driver/Operators, and a Firefighter, arrived on side Alpha and immediately began search and rescue operations. Windows on the second floor Alpha/Delta side apartment (Apt. A-2) were vented and ladders were thrown to gain access. T-8 arrived at the alley on side Charlie. E-1 extended a ground ladder to the third floor balcony on the Charlie/Bravo side of the structure (Apt. B-1), and made access to the apartment to search for additional victims.
They noted fire venting from the first floor Charlie/Delta apartment (Apt. T-2) out of the sliding glass doors progressing upwards towards the balcony on the second floor. Upon entering the apartment, they conducted a primary search and noted minimal heat with light smoke conditions.
The crew accessed the hallway via the apartment entry door and noticed an increase in the temperature and the amount of smoke.
They immediately closed the door and exited the apartment via the ground ladder.
Upon exiting the apartment, E-1’s crew observed E-292 on the scene with a hand line extending into the apartment of origin, (first floor, Charlie/Delta side, Apt. T-2). The officer on E-1 noted white smoke coming from the unit.
Having already laid a supply line from the intersection of the alley and Deanwood Road, E-292’s crew extended a 1 ¾” hand line into the apartment of origin. Moderate fire conditions with zero visibility were encountered, and they reported feeling a great deal of heat on their knees as they crawled through the apartment.
The Lieutenant and the Firefighter from Truck-1 entered Apartment A-2 via a second floor bedroom window (Alpha/Delta side) and began a search for additional victims. As they traversed the living room area they found an unconscious male resident (victim #2). At 1836 hours, the Lieutenant notified Command via an urgent transmission that a victim had been located and they needed assistance with evacuation. The Lieutenant and Firefighter noted a small fire in the rear corner near the victim as they exited the room. The crew returned to the bedroom from which they had entered and closed the door behind them. Victim #2 was then evacuated from the apartment via a ground ladder through the bedroom window, and transferred to EMS personnel on side Alpha.
Preflashover conditions Alpha Side 18:37 hours
At 1831 hours, Squad 303, a unit staffed by a Driver/Operator, Firefighter Falkenhan (acting Officer in Charge), and 3 other Firefighters had arrived at the Alpha side of the building. Firefighter Falkenhan and two crew members grabbed their tools and immediately entered the building. One Firefighter (Firefighter #1) proceeded to the terrace floor apartment to assist crews with fire attack. Firefighter Falkenhan and the other Firefighter (Firefighter #2) proceeded to the second floor
Bravo side apartment (Apt. A-1) to search for additional victims. They forced the door to the second floor apartment and conducted their search. Finding no one, they reported to Command that they had encountered high heat in the apartment and at 1838 hours, inquired as to which apartment victim #2 had been found. Firefighter Falkenhan advised Command that he and his fellow Firefighter were proceeding to the third floor to continue their search.
At 1840 hours, Battalion Chief 11 (BC-11) arrived on the scene, performed a face-to-face pass on with the Captain on Engine 11, and assumed Command. BC-11 initially observed limited smoke conditions, indicating to him that crews had made progress in extinguishing the fire.
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant and Firefighter from T-8 entered the second floor apartment that S-303 had just searched (Apt. A-1, second floor, Bravo side). They proceeded through the apartment and went across the hallway to Apartment A-2 where Truck-1 had just made their rescue (second floor, Delta side).
The Lieutenant noted smoky conditions, and saw that the sliding doors to the rear of the apartment were open, and saw a small fire in the rear of the apartment to the left of the open doors. On their way back to their point of entry, T-8’s crew discovered an unconscious female victim (victim #3). At 1837 hours, T-8 attempted to reach Command via radio and was covered by inaudible radio traffic. Dispatch was able to receive the radio transmission from T-8, and advised Command that another victim had been located on the second floor.
At this point, the crew from S-303 had completed their search of the third floor Bravo side apartment (Apt. B-1).
Firefighter Falkenhan and Firefighter #2 were able to look out of the sliding doors on side Charlie down to the first floor apartment, Apt. T-2 (Charlie/Delta side) and could see fire.
Smoke conditions on the third floor were light enough to walk upright in a somewhat crouched position.
The crew returned to the hallway, forced open the door to the third floor Charlie/Delta side apartment, Apt. B-2, and made entry.
Firefighter #2 walked down the hallway to the bedroom on the right while Firefighter Falkenhan searched to the left. After checking the bedroom, Firefighter #2 stated that he heard something behind him and turned to see fire in the hallway.
As the crew from S-303 searched the third floor Delta side apartment (Apt. B-2), The Lieutenant and Firefighter from T-8 were attempting to remove victim #3 from the second floor Delta side apartment (Apt. A-2). As they prepared to move their patient, fire conditions changed suddenly.
The Lieutenant from T-8 observed fire, “…rolling over our heads and out of the apartment door.” An immediate increase in heat conditions was noted. Upon exiting the apartment, T-8’s crew described a “tunnel of fire” coming out of the apartment and into the hallway. At 1841 hours, a radio transmission was made by an unknown source that heavy fire was observed in the hallway through a window at the stairwell landing.
At the same time, (1841) one minute after his arrival, Battalion Chief-11 (Command) noted heavy black smoke coming from the building and observed a “flash” through a second floor window. Command immediately ordered an evacuation of the building. Dispatch sounded the evacuation tones over the radio, and repeated the order to evacuate. Engines on the scene sounded their air horns to indicate that the order to evacuate had been given.
Firefighter #2 from S-303 reported hearing the engines on the fire ground sound their air horns, indicating to him that he needed to leave the building. Smoke conditions in the apartment had changed to thick black smoke, and the fire intensified, blocking his means of egress from the bedroom.
Realizing that he needed to get out of the apartment quickly, Firefighter#2 crawled to a window on the Alpha side of the bedroom and signaled Firefighters below with his hand light to move a ladder to the window. Crews immediately moved the ladder, and at 1841, Firefighter#2 dove headfirst out of the window and down the ladder, where he was assisted by crews working on the exterior of the building.
At 1841, Firefighter Falkenhan declared, “Emergency” on his radio, and repeated the same seven seconds later.
Command immediately queried S-303 for his location and the transmission “I’m down to the floor, heavy fire” was heard. At 1842 hours, Dispatch sounded emergency tones and restricted the Talkgroup to communications only between S-303 and Command.
Seconds later Firefighter Falkenhan again keyed up his portable radio and advised “…trapped on the 3rd floor, heavy fire on the Alpha/Bravo.”
Fourteen seconds later he advised “I hear crew members, the third, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.”
Command notified Dispatch, “We have a MAYDAY” and was interrupted by a transmission from Firefighter Falkenhan, “urgent.”
Command made several attempts to contact Falkenhan to ascertain his location and determine resources needed (Location Unit Name Assignment Resources) for rescue.
Upon hearing the MAYDAY, crews on side Charlie threw multiple ladders to the third floor balcony to assist with rescue.
Heavy heat, smoke, and fire conditions made rescue difficult, but Firefighter Falkenhan was located and removed from the apartment via the balcony to the extended aerial ladder from T-8. He was unconscious and unresponsive at this time. Resuscitative efforts began immediately upon removal from the balcony, and continued enroute to the hospital. Firefighter Falkenhan succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Consolidated List of Recommendations
1. Company officers shall ensure that crew integrity is maintained at all times by all personnel operating in an IDLH environment. 2. No personnel shall operate in an IDLH environment without a portable radio.
1. If possible, the firefighter should activate his/her Emergency button on the portable radio. 2. Once personnel have called a MAYDAY and provided the information needed (LUNAR), they will activate their PASS Device manually and intermittently.
1. Tactical Operations Manual 07 allows Incident Commanders the flexibility to adapt to fast-moving and complex incidents. When re-assuming command, the IC must be identified (verbally through Fire Dispatch) to allow units involved and responding to know who is in command.
2. Incident Commanders must understand that an early initial 360° would give the IC the information needed to develop effective strategy and tactics for incident mitigation.
3. Additional arriving units must give the IC an updated report on fire conditions when noticeably different than those announced in the Brief Initial Report.
4. Arriving units should prompt the IC to assign them supervision of a division when conditions warrant such action.
5. The IC must ensure that all division and group supervisors are properly deployed and verbalize same on the radio for Dispatch and units involved on the incident.
6. Reinforce the importance of the ICS and its functional components for all officers.
7. Ensure a manageable span-of-control is maintained throughout the incident.
8. Evaluate the efficiency of command and control as incidents escalate.
9. A Rapid Intervention Team is a vitally important part of the ICS and its assignment should not be overlooked.
Strategy and Tactics
1. Use caution when passing a hydrant that is in your direction of travel and close to the fire building in an attempt to get a closer one.
2. Consider having the initial backup line proceeding into the same point of entry as the initial crew operating in the IDLH environment. Doing this allows for the line to also aid in protecting the common stairwell (i.e. fire extension/protection for egress). Deploy a third line if needed into another point of access.
3. Consider dialing nozzles up to higher gallons per minute for large structures such as apartment buildings.
4. Consider utilizing a 2-1/2″ attack line for fire attack.
5. The current SOP should be modified to state that when the initial Incident Commander feels that the incident has stabilized to a point where there is no longer a need for him/her to be directly involved with incident operations, a notification through Dispatch shall be made to inform crews on and en route to the scene.
6. The Department should develop training to ensure that Incident Commanders relay changes in modes of operations.
7. Consider attacking fires from other sides of the structure that are on grade.
8. Consider the use of “door control” for protection during search and rescue and exposure protection
9. When deviations to initial orders are made, they must be communicated to Command.
10. IC should consider setting up a division supervisor with the first arriving officer to balance his/her span-of-control early into the incident.
11. Command should initiate group and division supervisors early into an incident and use them to reduce his/her span-of-control. Communicate Conditions, Actions, Needs (CAN) reports early and often.
12. When units are the initial crews deployed to a geographic location, consideration should be given to “prompt” Command to make them a division supervisor (in the absence of direction from Command).
13. Units should request resources, or supply their own as necessary to support the operations that they are undertaking.
14. When given a division assignment, “step back” to take in the overall picture and communicate progress reports to Command.
15. Be clear and concise when setting up division assignments.
16. Utilize the division supervisors for incident operations once assigned.
17. Training on effective use of interior doors to control fire spread should be promoted throughout the department.
18. Consider removing common stairwell windows earlier in fire ground operations when appropriate.
19. While performing operations above the fire, notify Command of changing conditions and immediately request resources to support your function.
20. Set up a command post as early as possible to aid in deploying and accounting for resources as they arrive on the fire ground.
21. Notify Command when entering an IDLH.
22. Request resources to support functions.
23. Set up divisions and groups early to aid in managing the strategic priorities.
24. Be clear in communicating strategy and tactics to companies involved in operations.
25. Command should make it a priority to deploy attack lines on all floors to support the operations of crews working in the area.
1. A rubberized cover for the radio speaker microphone should be tested by communications and field personnel. This device will cover the push-to-talk (PTT) button and will increase the pressure required for activation. If proved effective, this cover will decrease the likelihood of an accidental activation of the PTT button during vigorous fire ground activity.
2. Continuing study should occur to evaluate methods to control inadvertent radio interference from all units (on the scene, responding, or monitoring) during incident operations. Review PTT logs to identify sources of communications interference.
3. As a result of the investigation, PTT log files will now be saved for 25 days.
4. Fire Communications and field personnel will develop and distribute a mandatory training program outlining proper radio procedures including the importance of radio discipline, MAYDAY procedures, and the procedure for establishing a Command restricted talk group during critical operations.
5. All personnel engaged in operations in an environment immediately dangerous to life and health shall carry a portable radio.
6. The aforementioned mandatory training program shall stress the importance of giving regular updates to Command regarding the extent and location of the fire and other pertinent information.
In case you missed these or are first to see these now, informative information on Structural Collapse previously issued by NIST. This supplements the continuing research and effort by UL, NIST and numerous other academic and research institutions. From Fire.gov. http://www.nist.gov/fire/collapse.cfm
Structural Collapse Fire Tests: Single Story, Wood Frame Structures
A series of fire tests was conducted in Phoenix, Arizona to collect data for a project examining the feasibility of predicting structural collapse. The fire test scenario was selected as part of a training video being prepared by the Phoenix, Arizona Fire Department. Multiple fires were started in each structure to facilitate collapse; the fires were not intended to test the fire endurance of the structures. Four structures with different roof constructions were used for the fire tests. Temperatures were measured as a function of time in four locations within each structure. Furniture items were placed in the front and back of each structure to simulate living room and bedroom areas. The living room and bedroom areas of each structure were ignited simultaneously using electric matches. Peak temperatures obtained during the tests ranged from approximately 800 °C (1500 °F) to 1000 °C (1800 °F). The roof of each structure collapsed approximately 17 minutes after ignition. In addition to the full scale tests, the plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) roofing materials were tested using a cone calorimeter to characterize the fire properties of the materials.
Structural Collapse Fire Tests: Single Story, Ordinary Construction Warehouse
Two fire tests were conducted in a warehouse located in Phoenix, Arizona to develop data for evaluation of a methodology for predicting structural collapse. A firewall was constructed to divide the warehouse into two fire compartments. Temperatures were measured as a function of time in three locations during the first test and in two locations during the second test. In addition, the volume fraction of carbon monoxide was measured at selected locations during each test. Stacks of wood pallets were used as the primary fuel source and were ignited using paper and an electric match. Some combustible debris and the building structural elements provided the remainder of the fuel load. Peak temperatures obtained at different elevations ranged from approximately 300 °C (570 °F) to 800 °C (1470 °F). Peak carbon monoxide volume fraction reached 4 % in the first test and 5 % during the second test. The roof of the front half of the structure burned through approximately 18 min after ignition of the fire for the first test. The roof of the back half of the structure burned through about 15 min after the start of the second test.
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.
A field-based monitoring technique that utilizes measurements of fire-induced vibration was developed and first demonstrated under a previously funded research effort. This report details the findings of the ensuing 3-year endeavor in which significant improvements were made to both field-test and analysis procedures. A real-time monitoring tool has been developed and numerous full-scale burn tests on a variety of structures have been completed. A significant contribution of the research stems from the use of system stability theory to aid in the interpretation of the field measurements. The techniques described in this report can be used to monitor burning structures and to provide visual indicators that track changes in structural stability.
The Chief of the Department directed the Department Safety Officer to conduct a Safety Investigation of this incident. The primary purpose of the investigation was to identify and analyze the contributing factors that led to the incident as well as to create situational awareness to prevent future occurrences. The main objective of the Team’s investigation and subsequent report was to discover the key factor that led to the fatal outcome of two Firefighters. The SFFD report contains the findings and recommendations to help prevent Firefighter injuries or fatalities in the future.
In analyzing and recording these events, the Investigation Team acknowledges and respects that members confronted a challenging situation. On‐scene personnel reacted quickly to the changing conditions at this incident. We request that every person who reads this report show respect, appreciation and consideration for all personnel who responded to this incident.
As is a common industry practice, for this report Lieutenant Vincent Perez was referred to as Victim 1 and Firefighter Paramedic Anthony Valerio was referred to as Victim 2, with the exception of the Rescue Events Section.
Excerpt from Chief of Department’s Letter
“On Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 10:45 a.m., the San Francisco Fire Department responded to Box 8155, at 133 Berkeley Way. What was seemingly a routine working fire in a single family residence quickly transformed into a fierce and unrelenting incident with ultimately tragic results.
When we answered the call to a career in the Fire Service and took our Oath of Allegiance, we were aware of the inherent danger of our occupation. Despite this awareness, we do not expect to encounter a line of duty death of a brother or sister, especially not in our very own Department. The profound loss of Lieutenant Vincent Perez and Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Valerio has left an indelible impression in our hearts and will forever be remembered in the annals of SFFD history.
Even as we mourned our fallen brothers in the early days after the tragedy, our Department began the painful and difficult, but necessary, steps of a Line of Duty Death investigation. We were resolute in understanding what occurred during those fateful minutes and compelled to uncover any recommendations for improvement that may arise to future operations so that their passing will not have been in vain. For over six months, the Investigative Team worked tirelessly, scrutinizing every piece of evidence in order to produce a comprehensive report.”
Chief of Department
Executive Summary and Report Excerpt
On June 2, 2011 at 10:45 hours, the San Francisco Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a fire in the building at 133 Berkeley Way in the City’s Diamond Heights neighborhood. The first unit arriving on the scene, Engine 26, observed light smoke showing from the garage of the 4 story (2 above grade, 2 below grade) wood framed building, detached on the Bravo side.
Aerial from the Charlie Side
An aggressive interior fire attack was initiated through the front door, which is on a level between the ground level and second floor. After investigating the garage (ground level), Engine 24, the second Engine on the scene, led a small line through the garage to the interior door to back up the first Company. Battalion 9 was assigned Fire Attack by Battalion 6, who had assumed Command. Battalion 9 entered the fire building and, after conferring face to face with Engine 26 on the first floor (ground level), concluded that the fire was below them.
Alpha Side Operations
Battalion 9 exited the building and proceeded to the Bravo side to check for an entrance leading directly to the fire floor. Engine 11 led a large line wye to the driveway with the intention of leading a 1 ¾ inch line through the garage. They were redirected by Battalion 6 to make their lead down the Bravo side of the building to Sublevel 1 (one floor below grade) to assist Battalion 9. The Division Chief, upon arrival, assumed Command. He assigned Battalion 6 to Division 3 (ground floor).
Truck 15 was assigned Roof Division. Truck 11 split their crew, two members to the roof and three members to search and ventilate the top floor of the fire building. The Rescue Squad was ordered to conduct a search. Two members initially attempted to make entry through the garage but, due to extreme heat conditions, redeployed and entered through Sublevel 1 on the Bravo side.
The other two members of the Rescue Squad made entry through the front door, were pushed back by the heat and then made a successful second effort and conducted a search of the top floor.
In the course of fireground operations, members of several Companies came upon the stricken members on the first level and removed them from the building. All possible efforts were employed to revive the members and they were transported to San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). One member (Victim 1) succumbed to his injuries that day and the second member (Victim 2) succumbed to his injuries two days later. Two other Firefighters were treated at SFGH for various injuries and released that day.
The Medical Examiner determined the cause of death for both members was due to complications from external and internal thermal injuries. Both victims suffered burns to 40% of their body surface. This fire was determined to be accidental by the SFFD Fire Investigative Unit. The fire originated on Sublevel 1, on the West side of the family room, near the large floor to ceiling windows. The ignition was a non‐specific electrical sequence in the electrical wiring or appliance (handheld vacuum cleaner) in this area.
There was a delay in reporting the fire due to the occupants’ attempting to extinguish it on their own. (SFFD Fire Investigation Report 11‐0500532)
The investigation identified that the failing of the window on Sublevel 1, located near the seat of the fire and directly across the stairwell leading to the ground floor, led to the extreme fire behavior which ultimately caused the death of two Firefighters. This fire was in a stage of deprived oxygen when the window failed, causing a rapid extreme high heat event to occur. The extreme heat followed the natural flow path up the interior stairs where Victims 1 and 2 were located.
The Safety Investigation Team found no conclusive evidence that the members were exposed to direct flame impingement during this rapid extreme heat event. However,
Victims 1 and 2 received varying degree of burns up to 40% of their body. The investigation concluded that this was caused by the rapid extreme heat conditions that radiated through their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their bodies. These temperatures exceed the ability for human survival regardless of PPE.
The PPE was inspected and evaluated by NIOSH and the manufacturer. Both reviewing parties concluded that the PPE performed to its specifications and design. The manufacturer concluded that the PPE was exposed to temperatures in the range of 550‐ 700°F. These extreme temperatures were short in duration which caused limited damage to the outer shell of the PPE.
The Safety Investigation Team noticed severe heat damage to the portable radios remote speaker/microphones on Victims 1 and 2 and had the radios tested. The testing indicated that the remote speaker/microphones failed to operate correctly due to heat damage. The Safety Investigation Team was not able to determine, after testing, exactly when the remote speaker/microphones failed. The investigation has shown that multiple attempts were made to contact Engine 26 with no response.
The investigation also found that no radio transmissions of distress were received from Victims 1 or 2. Command and Control of any incident in the San Francisco Fire Department is acquired and maintained through the use of the Incident Command System (ICS).
The Incident Command System provides the tools for clear objectives, a single action plan, clear and acknowledged communications, and accountability for all members assigned to an incident. At this incident, some of the components of Incident Command System that were not followed include:
Single action plan
From these findings, this report makes recommendations for several areas of the Department, including:
The Safety Investigation Team gathered and analyzed many facts and conducted interviews of members directly involved in this incident. The Team identified several factors that occurred that contributed to the deaths at this incident.
These factors include:
Extreme heat conditions accelerated by the failure of a window on the fire floor.
Layout of building
Excessive live fuel load which contributed to the growth of the fire
This incident appeared from the onset to be a routine “room and contents” fire that the SFFD encounters on a regular basis. As the Companies were performing standard fireground operations, the incident rapidly deteriorated due to a hostile fire event. The failure of a window in the fire room allowed fresh oxygen to enter the room, providing a fire that was deprived of one of the key elements of combustion to rapidly intensify.
Due to the growth of the fire, the room flashed, causing extreme and rapid heat conditions which traveled up the interior stairs (the flow path) to the location which our members were operating. Our members were caught in this high heat, causing the injuries that ultimately claimed their lives.
Due to this fire event, other Companies attempting to conduct fireground support operations were prevented from making entry into the structure from street level (through garage) to back up Engine 26. These Companies were forced to regroup and find an alternate point of entry. In the process of doing so, crews made entry from the Bravo side directly into the fire room and extinguished the fire. This allowed members to make entry from above which led to the discovery and rescue of our members.
These events happened in a time frame of less than fourteen minutes.
During the course of this investigation, the Safety Investigation Team recognized that no matter how experienced or properly prepared we are, we must always approach all incidents with the utmost awareness.
This incident showed that a simple failure of a piece of glass/window caused unforeseeable and fatal consequences.
We, as a Department, need to gain further knowledge and understanding of the following:
Having Situational Awareness prior to taking action, this would include the ongoing process when conditions change
How Risk Management must be used when making all decisions
Limitations of the PPE (turnouts, SCBA, and equipment)
Building construction, including layout and how fire/smoke will
move within the structure
Ventilation practices and how they affect fire conditions
Importance of Communications for all members operating on the scene
Companies must use strict discipline when assigned task/locations
The mission of the Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of the people of San Francisco from fires, natural disasters, and hazardous materials incidents; to save lives by providing emergency medical services; to prevent fires through prevention and education programs; and to provide a work environment that values health, wellness and cultural diversity and is free of harassment and discrimination.
Wind blowing into the broken window of a room on fire can turn a “routine room and contents fire” into a floor-to-ceiling firestorm. Historically, this has led to a significant number of firefighter fatalities and injuries, particularly in high-rise buildings where the fire must be fought from the interior of the structure.
Wind-Driven Fire in a Ranch-Style House in Texas, 2009
On April 12, 2009, a fire in a one-story ranch home in Texas claimed the lives of two fire fighters. (NIOSH REPORT HERE) Sustained high winds occurred during the incident. The winds caused a rapid change in the dynamics of the fire after the failure of a large section of glass in the rear of the house.
Wind Driven Fire in Home, Texas, 2009. Aerial view of damage to the structure. Photo credit: Houston Fire Department.
NIST performed computer simulations of the fire using the Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS) and Smokeview, a visualization tool, to provide insight on the fire development and thermal conditions that may have existed in the residence during the fire.
The FDS simulation that best represents the witnessed fire conditions indicates that the fire that spread throughout the attic and first floor developed a wind driven flow with temperatures in excess of 260 °C (500 °F) between the den and front door. The critical event in this fire was the creation of a wind-driven flow path between the upwind side of the structure and the exit point on the downwind side of the structure, the front door. The flow path was created by the failure of a large span of windows in the den, in the rear of the structure. Floor-to-ceiling temperatures rapidly increased in the flow path where multiple crews were performing interior operations. In a simulation that excluded wind, the flow path was not created, and the thermal environment surrounding the location of interior operations was improved.
Still image from FDS simulation. Temperatures at 1.5 m (5 ft) above the floor throughout the house 10 s after solarium failure. Image credit: NIST.
Wind has been recognized as a contributing factor to fire spread in wildland fires and large-area conflagrations and wildland fire fighters are trained to account for the wind in their tactics. While structural fire departments have recognized the impact of wind on fires, in general, the standard operating guidelines for structural fire fighting have not changed to address the hazards created by a wind driven fire inside a structure. The results of the “no-wind” and “wind” fire simulations demonstrate how wind conditions can rapidly change the thermal environment from tenable to untenable for fire fighters working in a single-story residential structure fire.
The simulation results emphasize the importance of including wind conditions in the scene size-up before beginning and while performing fire fighting operations and adjusting tactics based on the wind conditions. These results are in agreement with NIST studies conducted to examine wind driven fire conditions in high-rise structures.
Based on the analysis of this fire incident and results from previous studies, adjusting fire fighting tactics to account for wind conditions in structural fire fighting is critical to enhancing the safety and the effectiveness of fire fighters. Previous studies demonstrated that applying water from the exterior, into the upwind side of the structure can have a significant impact on controlling the fire prior to beginning interior operations. It should be made clear that in a wind-driven fire, it is most important to use the wind to your advantage and attack the fire from the upwind side of the structure, especially if the upwind side is the burned side. Interior operations need to be aware of potentially rapidly changing conditions.
Career Probationary Fire Fighter and Captain Die as a Result of Rapid Fire Progression in a Wind-Driven Residential Structure Fire – Texas
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, April 12, 2009, a 30-year old male career probationary fire fighter and a 50-year old male career captain were killed when they were trapped by rapid fire progression in a wind-driven residential structure fire. The victims were members of the first arriving company and initiated fast attack offensive interior operations through the front entrance. Less than six minutes after arriving on-scene, the victims became disoriented as high winds pushed the rapidly growing fire through the den and living room areas where interior crews were operating. Seven other fire fighters were driven from the structure but the two victims were unable to escape. Rescue operations were immediately initiated but had to be suspended as conditions deteriorated. The victims were located and removed from the structure approximately 40 minutes after they arrived on location.
Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include: an inadequate size-up prior to committing to tactical operations; lack of understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics; fire in a void space burning in a ventilation controlled regime; high winds; uncoordinated tactical operations, in particular fire control and tactical ventilation; failure to protect the means of egress with a backup hose line; inadequate fireground communications; and failure to react appropriately to deteriorating conditions.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
ensure that an adequate initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene is conducted before beginning interior fire fighting operations
ensure that fire fighters and officers have a sound understanding of fire behavior and the ability to recognize indicators of fire development and the potential for extreme fire behavior (such as smoke color, velocity, density, visible fire, heat)
ensure that fire fighters are trained to recognize the potential impact of windy conditions on fire behavior and implement appropriate tactics to mitigate the potential hazards of wind-driven fire
ensure that fire fighters understand the influence of ventilation on fire behavior and effectively apply ventilation and fire control tactics in a coordinated manner
ensure that fire fighters and officers understand the capabilities and limitations of thermal imaging cameras (TIC) and that a TIC is used as part of the size-up process
ensure that fire fighters are trained to check for fire in overhead voids upon entry and as charged hoselines are advanced
develop, implement and enforce a detailed Mayday Doctrine to insure that fire fighters can effectively declare a Mayday
ensure fire fighters are trained in fireground survival procedures
ensure all fire fighters on the fire ground are equipped with radios capable of communicating with the Incident Commander and Dispatch
Additionally, research and standard setting organizations should:
conduct research to more fully characterize the thermal performance of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepiece lens materials and other personal protective equipment (PPE) components to ensure SCBA and PPE provide an appropriate level of protection.
Although there is no evidence that the following recommendation could have specifically prevented the fatalities, NIOSH investigators recommend that fire departments:
ensure that all fire fighters recognize the capabilities and limitations of their personal protective equipment when operating in high temperature environments.
NFFF News Release: In an effort to make personal safety a top priority, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) today released a new video, Chicago Fire Department – Everyone Goes Home®. Members of the CFD and families of fallen firefighters share their stories in this compelling and moving testimonial of the importance of adhering to safety standards and accepting personal responsibility for following procedures.
Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff was impressed by a video that the NFFF and the Fire Department of New York produced several years earlier to educate members about the importance of training and safety standards. The FDNY leadership had noticed behavioral improvement among its members following the release of their video. Hoff felt that the members of the CFD could benefit from hearing first-hand accounts of the lessons learned by their colleagues and invited the NFFF to collaborate on a video for Chicago.
“The culture of firefighting requires us to do everything we can to make sound decisions so we can be in a position to help the people we serve when they most need it,” said Ronald J. Siarnicki, executive director of the NFFF. “With this video the firefighters and leadership of the Chicago Fire Department are clearly showing the rest of the fire service you can still be a firefighter and at the same time do your best to make sure Everyone Goes Home®.”
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) released a new safety video, Chicago Fire Department – Everyone Goes Home®, to help raise awareness of personal safety in the fire service. Nearly two dozen members of the CFD and survivors of fallen firefighters share their stories. See the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vODww1qwSuE
Take a moment to look back at an incident: On December 18, 1998, Three FDNY Firefighters died in-the line of duty while conducting suppression and rescue operations at fire on the tenth floor of 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly. At 0454 hours Brooklyn transmitted box 4080 for a top floor fire at 17 Vandalia Avenue in the Starrett City development complex. The sprawling complex is located on Brooklyn’s south shore in the Spring Creek section. The 10 story 50 x 200 fireproof building is used as a senior citizen’s residence. Engine 257 and ladder 170, both quartered in Canarsie, were assigned 1st due and arrived within 4 minutes. By that time the fire already could be seen blowing through two windows. Second and 3rd alarms were quickly transmitted.
As the 1st due Ladder Company, L170′s duty is to search the fire floor. Lieutenant Joseph Cavalieri, and fire fighters Christopher Bopp and James Bohan ascended 10 flights of stairs with extinguishers and forcible entry tools. Their mission was to rescue the resident of apartment 10-D who was believed trapped inside.
NIOSH INVESIGATIVE REPORT SUMMARY (F99-01) On December 18, 1998, several fire companies and fire fighters responded at 0454 hours to a reported fire on the tenth floor of a 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly. The fire had been burning for 20 to 30 minutes before it was called in because the resident attempted to put the fire out with small pans of water. As the fire fighters approached the building from the rear, an orange glow was observed in the window of Apartment 10D. As the fire fighters were arriving in front of the high-rise, a call was received from Central Dispatch that a female resident in the apartment next door to the fire apartment was trapped in her apartment and needed help. Several fire fighters entered the lobby area, and some took the stairs to the ninth floor, while others took the elevator to the ninth floor. A Lieutenant and two fire fighters on Ladder 170 (the victims), along with the Lieutenant on Engine 290, took the B-stairs from the ninth floor to the tenth floor, and entered the hallway, in search of the fire, while 4 fire fighters on Engine 290 were flaking out the hose line on the ninth floor and in the stairwell between the ninth and tenth floor in preparation for hookup.
During this same time period, other fire fighters had gone to the tenth floor A-stairwell landing to attempt a hose line hookup to the standpipe in the landing. Engine Company 257 fire fighters, who were attempting to make a hook-up on the fire floor landing, experienced trouble with the heat, heavy smoke, and heavy insulation on the standpipe and were forced to abandon this hook-up. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 and the victims, who were on the B-side, were approaching the center smoke doors (see diagram), when the Lieutenant radioed his driver on the outside, and asked, “Where is the fire?”
The driver radioed back, the fire is in the rear, towards exposure 4. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 then left the tenth floor, descended the stairs to the ninth floor and helped his men drag the hose to the A-stairwell, where they met up with fire fighters on Engine 257, who assisted them in stretching their line and hook-up on the ninth floor. The victims proceeded through the center smoke doors in search of the fire. From the information obtained during this investigation, it is believed the victims found the fire apartment, with the door partially opened, allowing smoke and hot gases to enter the hallway. They then opened the door fully, the wind pushed the fire and extreme heat in the apartment into the hallway, and a flashover occurred, exposing the victims to extreme radiant heat that potentially elevated their body core temperature.
The last radio transmission from the victims was a Mayday call. When the victims were found, all were unresponsive, they were treated at the scene and taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead by the attending physician.
This wind-driven fire event and the lessons-learned contributed directly to the current body of research and new insights on emerging strategies and tactics. The NIOSH Investigative Report HERE. NIST References on Wind Driven Fire Research HERE . FDNewYork.com HERE. New York Times Archived Articles, HERE and HERE. Photos and legacy, HERE
Take the time to remember FDNY Lt. Joseph Cavaleiri, FF Christopher Bopp and Firefighter James Bohan from Ladder 170
Firefighters rush into a burning commercial building with too-small hoses and insufficient water. The commander can’t reach them because the captain forgot his radio. Backup crews aren’t sure where to go or what to do. Confusion reigns as the building’s truss roof collapses in an explosion of flames.
This reads like the playbook from the deadly Sofa Super Store fire in June 2007, but it’s not. These dangerous missteps occurred at a March 1 blaze on Daniel Island, according to an internal report obtained by The Post and Courier.
Photo by Andy Paras
This blaze at an office building on Daniel Island on March 1 of this year has led to the demotion of a Charleston fire captain and controversy within the ranks.
They occurred despite nearly four years of intensive and expensive efforts to instill a culture of safety in the Charleston Fire Department.
What’s more, the commander in charge that day — a man repeatedly faulted in the in-house review of the blaze — was recently promoted to a top position in the department. And that’s causing some dissension in the ranks.
City fire officials stand behind their promotion of Troy Williams to battalion chief, and they said the portion of the draft report that leaked to the newspaper is incomplete, unfair, unofficial and riddled with inaccuracies.
Fire Chief Thomas Carr acknowledged problems at the fire, which gutted a two-story office building at 899 Island Park Drive. That’s why he authorized a six-member committee of firefighters to conduct what’s known as a critical incident review. But Carr said he rejected the resulting draft report when it landed on his desk six weeks ago because it had errors and failed to live up to its intended purpose, which is to be an educational tool, not an instrument for blame.
The 12-page portion obtained by the The Post Courier newspaper describes “major” violations of policy and assigns blame for those mistakes. It raises questions about the handling of the blaze, the effectiveness of the training firefighters have received and the integrity of the promotion process.
It also highlights the continuing conflict between the department’s hard-charging past and its new, risk-sensitive methods.
For the Complete Full version Article: The Post and Courier HERE
An arson fire in a vacant home in North Las Vegas (NV) was intention set and devised in a manner to harm firefighters according to Authorities.
Upon arrival of fire companies, the second floor was fully involved with heavy smoke showing from outside the building.
North Las Vegas Firefighters and Las Vegas Fire and Rescue worked together to control the flames in the vacant two story home.
It took seven units and approximately 27 firefighters to contain the fire.
There was no extension of the fire to surrounding homes, it was contained in 15 minutes.
There aren’t specific details released on why authorities believe this fire was set to harm firefighters, but the fire official discussing the incident clearly expressed his concerns of what confronted operating companies at this alarm.
Residential Structure Built in 1997
The two story residential structure was of Type V, wood frame construction, built in 1997 consisting of 1,998 Square feet of space with three (3) beadrooms, seven total rooms and an attached garage.
It’s especially important for companies and company officers to remain highly vigilant upon entering and conducting interior operations for any signs or indications that conditions may not be as characteristic and expected for fires in similar occupancies or under prevailing conditions.
We plan to develop and prepare some safety awareness insights for operations in a few days. We’ll also continue to monitor information that may be forthcoming with further details as to what may have been encountered by firefighters.
“Hal Bruno is one of the most important figures in the history of this country’s fire service. Hal died last night (November 8, 2011) at age 83. I imagine that many of the younger firefighters and a few older ones who read this site aren’t familiar with the name Hal Bruno. Hal wasn’t a fire chief and his expertise wasn’t in fireground tactics, hazardous materials, truck company or engine company operations. Hal’s specialty was firefighters. He was the best friend a firefighter and the fire service could have. But Hal Bruno wasn’t the friend who just slapped you on the back and told you what you wanted to hear. Hal cared enough to tell us all what we needed to hear. ” Dave Statter, STATter911.com Posted 11/09/2011 HERE
For more than 60 years, Hal Bruno served as an active member of the fire service community, giving selflessly as a dedicated volunteer firefighter, advocate, commentator and leader. He is renowned for his commitment to fire safety initiatives and his compassion for the members of the fire service and their families. From the NFFF Memorial Page, HERE
Taking it From the Streets and Delivering it From the Chief’s Office;
An exciting and dynamic discussion that integrates the insights from Christopher Naum’s Taking it to the Streets perspectives to Chief Doug Cline’s Chief’s Bugle visions. FirefighterNetcast.com is proud to present an insightful look at today’s leading issues affecting the American Fire Service from the perspective of the street firefighter, officer and commander and the perspective from the executive and chief officers and commanders- the Chief’s perspective.
This program’s theme and discussion will concentrate on the challenges of maintaining a balanced approach towards integrating effective risk management, with the demands for effective and highly efficient firefighting; while promoting safety, hazard reduction and injury and LODD reduction with conventional decision-making.
Tune in Wednesday night October 26, 2011, 9pm ET on FirefighterNetcast.com for a 10-Alarm Discussion with these visionary national fire service leaders and their special guests.
Join in on the live open discussion with other fire service personnel from around the country.
Accessed from FDNY - Remembering the "23rd Street Fire" October 17, 1966, Facebook Page
On October 17th 1966, Manhattan Box 598 was struck at 21:36 hours for the report of a building fire at 7 East 22nd Street, an art dealer in a four story brownstone. On arrival, the heat and smoke was so intense companies could not make entry through the art dealer, and so attempted to make entry by way of the abutted building 6 East 23rd Street, The Wonder Drug store.
Crews were dealing with a very intense and spreading fire. With companies operating above the fire, little indication of a catastrophic collapse was present. Suddenly, a 16×35 foot section of the floor collapsed at around 22:39 hours causing ten firefighters to fall into the burning cellar. Two other firefighters on the first floor were killed in a burst of heat.
Firefighters evacuated immediately, except for some whom were trapped on the roof with direct flame impingement. Hand lines from the ground and a truck company ladder was able to rescue the group in time. Rescue operation ensued long into the morning. Several evacuations were ordered, and further collapses occurred. Aside from 9/11, this was the largest single line of duty death event in the FDNY’s history.
Stored in the basement of the art dealer were large quantities of highly flammable lacquer, paint, and finished wood frames. The first floor was supported by 3″ x 14″ wood beams. 3/4″ wood planking atop these beams was covered with five inches of concrete finished with terrazzo and insulated against all heat to the firefighters operating above. As part of a recent project, a common cellar under the two buildings was renovated, removing a load-bearing dividing wall that had supported the floor above. The cellar of the art dealer extended under the drug store illegally from this renovation.
The fire burned unknowingly in the Wonder Drug basement for over an hour when it finally collapsed. It took 14 hours to locate all downed firefighters in the rubble; the cause of the fire is unknown.
Building Construction Insights
Location of Fire Origin: Cellar of 7 East 22 St.
Location of Collapse: First floor of Exposure 3 building: 6 East 23 St. “The Wonder Drug Store.”
Fire Building Construction:
7 East 22 St: a brownstone, 20 x 60 brick and joist, four story residence.
The cellar, where the fire started, and first floor were occupied by an art dealer.
The cellar extended under the first floor of Wonder Drug for approximately 35 feet.
Collapse Building Construction:
6 East 23 St: a five story, 45 x 100 commercial building, brick & joist construction.
The rear, 16 x 35 foot, section of the first floor collapsed into the cellar occupied by 7 East 22 St.
The rear and side walls butted up to a 3-story white brick commercial building to the West at 3940-948 Broadway and to a 5-story brown brick building to the North at 6 East 23rd Street
Diagram NY Times (2006) Accessed from the internet 10.18.2011
(1) The fire building, 7 East 22 St, had a two story extension which abutted the rear of 6 East 23 St.
(2) The Cellar of 7 East 22 St extended under the first floor of 6 East 23 St for approximately 35 feet.
(3) The floor construction of 6 East 23 St was 3″ x 14″ wood beams topped by 3/4″ wood planking. On top of this, five inches of concrete with a terrazzo finish was added.
The firefighters in exposure 3, (6 East 23 St), killed in the collapse did not know they were operating directly over the cellar fire in 7 East 22 St. The five inch concrete terrazzo floor acted as an insulator.
It concealed the severe fire and heat below. The 3 inch x 14 inch floor beams spaced 16 inches on center were reduced in size and strength by the fire.
The first sign of weakness was the sudden collapse of a 15 x 35 foot section, which plunged the ten firefighters to their deaths. Two other firefighters were killed on the first floor by a ball of flame.
The 5-alarm fire wasthe single worst loss of New York City firefighters in the line of duty prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
FDNY LODD Twelve Members of Every Rank
Twelve members of every rank, from a probationary firefighter to a deputy chief, made the Supreme Sacrifice when the ground floor of the Wonder Drug store collapsed. The fire originated in a basement storage area, which was concealed by a four-inch thick cinderblock wall, illegally constructed by the building’s previous owner.
DC Thomas A Reilly, Division .3
BC Walter J Higgins, Battalion. 7
Lt John J Finley, Ladder 7
Lt Joseph Priore, Engine 18
Fr John G Berry, Ladder 7
Fr James V Galanaugh, Engine 18
Fr Rudolph F Kaminsky, Ladder 7
Fr Joseph Kelly, Engine 18
Fr Carl Lee Ladder, 7
Fr William F McCarron, Division 3
Fr Daniel L Rey, Engine 18
Fr Bernard A Tepper, Engine 18
From NYFD.com http://nyfd.com/history/23rd_street/23rd_street.html
Help Spread the Word: Bells Across America Will Ring to Honor Fallen Firefighters Make sure your website or blog is providing live coverage of 2011 Memorial Weekend
Information From the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation 2011 Memorial Weekend Website (Direct Links HERE and HERE)
Please visit the web site directly for more information on the programs offered by the NFFF
For the first time in the 30-year history of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend the bells of the Memorial Chapel will ring on Sunday, October 16 to honor the fallen. As part of this tribute, fire departments and places of worship & other community organizations will join the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters, the first nation-wide remembrance for firefighters who died in the line of duty. The NFFF created the website, www.bellsacrossamerica.com which explains the program. A letter of invitation, frequently asked questions about the program and a response form are all available on the website. Fire department representatives are encouraged to work with their clergy and community leaders to decide what type of remembrance is best. Some suggestions include: ringing chapel bells, a moment of silence, a brief prayer, a hymn, tolling a ceremonial bell by members of the Fire Department, or any combination of these. The remembrance can occur at any time on Sunday, October 16.
“When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, the sadness resonates through an entire community. Through Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters, everyone across the country has the opportunity to pay tribute to the lives of these brave men and women who willingly take risks to protect and serve their communities,” said Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, executive director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
In addition to Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters, departments and individuals can add the National Fallen Firefighters Tribute Widget to their website, blog or Facebook page. The widget is a small box that will appear on the site, continually scrolling the names of firefighters honored in Emmitsburg. The photos of seven firefighters who will be honored are rotated each day for one week leading up to Memorial Weekend. Go to weekend.FireHero.org/widget to copy and embed the widget.
The Fire Hero Network will be in full operation during Memorial Weekend. The Candlelight Service and Memorial Service will again be televised and sent around the world via satellite and the Internet. Departments can be a part of the network by streaming the events on your department’s website. The NFFF invites all departments to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to encourage local news media to do the same.
In addition, there will be a Fire Hero Radio webcast from Memorial Weekend and continuous updates on social media, including the Foundation’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.
For more information about the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, go to weekend.firehero.org.
» Candlelight Service Broadcast: Saturday, October 15, 2011 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time
(Telecast Begins at 6:15 p.m.; Service Begins at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time)» Memorial Service Broadcast: Sunday, October 16, 2011 9:00 am – 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time
(Telecast Begins at 9:30 a.m.; Service Begins at 10 a.m. Eastern Time)
Three Franklin (OH) firefighters were caught in what has been determined to be a smoke explosion at a structure fire involving a restaurant occupancy in what appears to be a building of Type III construction that published reports indicated was built in 1892.
Franklin (OH) FD Lt. Kyle Lovelace and firefighters Quincy Pearson and Brad Brown were caught in a smoke explosion while conducting interior fire suppression operations at which time conditions deteriorated and a smoke explosion occurred. Simultaneous with the recognition that something was not good; the crew immediately began to retreat when they were caught in the explosion. All of them luckily made it out unscathed.
According to published reports, “They reverted back to their training and did what they needed to do to get out,” according to Fire Chief Jonathan Westendorf . “We have a flashover simulator and we spend a good amount time talking about it each year.”
Reports have indicated Lt. Lovelace stated that when they arrived on the scene, he noticed smoke coming from left side of the building above the second floor and thought that it may be an attic fire.
They attempted to gain entry through the front door, but before they opened it they noticed a crack in the window and decided to gain entry through the rear. Lt. Lovelace, FF Pearson and FF Brown entered an alley covered by an awning connecting to freestanding structures. Westendorf later said his guys were fortunate to be in that location because they were isolated from the brunt of the blast.
The crew advanced about 25 feet when FF Pearson, who was on the nozzle, saw wisps of smoke and began to feel extreme heat.
Lt. Lovelace used a thermal imaging camera to locate where the heat was coming from, but right before he could tell Person, he started yelling at him to get out. They made it about 20 feet when the thick black smoke started banking down on them. As Lovelace exited under the awning, conditions quickly worsened and the smoke explosion occurred. Video of blast HERE
Links for complete reporting insights and details;
We’ll be presenting two of our distinguished programs at the Liberty Fire and Leadership Training Conference in November
Make your plans to attend the newest premiere training conference, offering the latests in integrated eMedia, interactive classroom and hands-on training, education and networking? The Buildingsonfire.com family ( consistings of CommandSafety.com, TheCompanyOfficer.com, Taking it to the Streets Radio and Buildingsonfire.com) will be presenting two cutting edge and timely programs at both the Liberty Fire and Leadership Training Conferenceon November 4-6, 2011 in King of Prussia, PA
This session will present the new rules of combat structural fire engagement and provide insights into integrated command and operational risk management, tactical safety and tactical protocols based on occupancy risks versus occupancy type. Building and occupancy profiling requires knowledge of emerging construction methods, features, systems and components. Coupled with the increasing commonality of extreme fire behavior and the increased fire load package, these factors require new skill sets in reading the building and implementing predictive occupancy profiling to determine appropriate tactics for firefighters, company and command officers.
The class will examine case studies, history-repeating events, the latest testing and research findings on vent path theory, fire behavior, structural system integrity, wind driven fire theory and fire suppression theory, and engage students through interactive exercises and group discussions.
Today’s buildings and occupancies continue to present unique challenges to command and operating companies during combat structural fire engagement. Building and occupancy profiling, identifying occupancy risk versus occupancy type, emerging construction methods, features, systems and components coupled with the increasing commonality of extreme fire behavior and the increased fire load package require new skill sets in reading the building and implementing predictive occupancy profiling for firefighters, company and command officers. Integral to the presentation will be detailed discussions on building and structural system placarding methods and labeling programs.
FIRE FIGHTER FATALITY INVESTIGATION AND PREVENTION PROGRAM
Each year an average of 100 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. This web page provides access to NIOSH investigation reports and other fire fighter safety resources.
U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,331,500 fires. These fires resulted in 3,120 civilian fire fatalities, 17,720 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $11,593,000,000 in direct property loss. There was a civilian fire death every 169 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 30 minutes in 2010. Home fires caused 2,640, or 85%, of the civilian fire deaths. Fires accounted for five percent of the 28,205,000 total calls. Eight percent of the calls were false alarms; sixty-six percent of the calls were for aid such as EMS.
In 2010, public fire departments responded to 1,331,500 fires in the United States, according to estimates based on data NFPA received from fire departments responding to its 2010 National Fire Experience Survey. This represents a slight decrease of 1.3 percent from the previous year and is the lowest since NFPA started using its current survey methodology in 1977 – 78.
An estimated 482,000 structure fires were reported to fire departments in 2010, an increase of 0.3 percent, or virtually no change from the year before. For the period from 1977 to 2010, inclusive, the number of structure fires peaked in 1977 when 1,098,000 structure fires occurred. The number of structure fires then decreased steadily, particularly in the 1980s, to 688,000 by the end of 1989, for an overall decrease of 37.3 percent from 1977. Since 1989, structure fires again decreased steadily for an overall decrease of 24.7 percent to 517,500 by the end of 1998. They stayed in the 505,000 to 530,500 range from 1999 to 2008, before dropping to 480,500 in 2009, and increasing in 2010.
Of the 2010 structure fires, 384,000 were residential fires, accounting for 79.7 percent of all structure fires, an increase of 1.9 percent from the year before. Of these residential structure fires, 279,000 occurred in one- and two-family homes, accounting for 57.9 percent of structure fires. Another 90,500 occurred in apartments, accounting for 18.8 percent of all structure fires.
NFPA 2010 Overview
For nonresidential structure fires, some property types showed notable changes. In public assembly occupancies, such fires decreased 17.2 percent to 12,000. In stores and offices, they increased 9.1 percent to 18,000. And in special structure properties, they dropped 11.1 percent to 20,000.
2010 Report Overview
1,331,500 fires were responded to by public fire departments, a decrease of 1.3 percent from the year before.
482,000 fires occurred in structures, an increase of 0.3 percent from 2009.
384,000 fires, or 80 percent of all structure fires, occurred in residential properties.
215,500 fires occurred in vehicles, a decrease of 1.6 percent from the year before.
634,000 fires occurred in outside properties, a decrease of 2.3 percent from 2009.
CIVILIAN FIRE DEATHS
3,120 civilian fire deaths occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2009.
About 85 percent of all fire deaths occurred in the home.
2,640 civilian fire deaths occurred in the home, an increase of 2.9 percent from 2009.
285 civilians died in highway vehicle fires.
90 civilians died in nonresidential structure fires.
CIVILIAN FIRE INJURIES
17,720 civilian fire injuries occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.9 percent from the year before.
13,800 of all civilian injuries occurred in residential properties, while 1,620 occurred in non-residential structure fires.
An estimated $11.6 billion in property damage occurred as a result of fire in 2010, a decrease of 7.5 percent from 2009.
$9.7 billion of property damage occurred in structure fires.
$7.1 billion of property loss occurred in residential properties.
INTENTIONALLY SET FIRES
An estimated 27,500 intentionally set structure fires occurred in 2010, an increase of 3.8 percent from 2009.
Intentionally set fires in structures resulted in 200 civilian deaths, an increase of 17.7 percent from the year before.
Intentionally set structure fires also resulted in $585,000,000 in property loss, a decrease of 14.5 percent from 2009.
14,000 intentionally set vehicle fires occurred, a decrease of 6.7 percent from the year before, and caused $89,000,000 in property damage, a decrease of 17.6 percent.
Estimate of Fires by Type in the United States (1977-2010) NFPA Statistics
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 change to address these new rules of structural fire engagement. There is a need to gain the 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 (Bk=F2S)
The Newest radio show on FireFighter Netcast.com at Blogtalk Radio… Taking it to the Streets with Christopher Naum. On the Air Monthly on Firefighter Netcast.com. A Buildingsonfire.com Series and Firefighter Netcast.com Production. Advancing Firefighter Safety and Operational Integrity for the Fire Service through provocative insights and dynamic discussions dedicated to the Art and Science of Firefighting and the Traditions of the Fire Service.