“It’s a lot more than just Stretching the Line…and going in….”
“It’s a lot more than just Stretching the Line…and going in….”
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.
Report focuses on the causes and characteristics of fire injuries in residential buildings
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) issued a special report today examining the characteristics of civilian fire injuries in residential buildings. The report, Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) was developed by USFA’s National Fire Data Center and is based on 2008 to 2010 data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS).
According to the report:
Civilian Fire Injuries in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) is part of the Topical Fire Report Series. Topical reports explore facets of the U.S. fire problem as depicted through data collected in NFIRS.
Each topical report briefly addresses the nature of the specific fire or fire-related topic, highlights important findings from the data, and may suggest other resources to consider for further information.
Also included are recent examples of fire incidents that demonstrate some of the issues addressed in the report or that put the report topic in context.
Bridgeport (CT) fire officials’ failure on nearly ever level led to the line-of-duty deaths of two firefighters battling a fire in a residential occupancy in Bridgeport, CT on July 24, 2010.
Among the findings of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released Wednesday:
Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michel Baik were on the third-floor of the wood-frame home at 41 Elmwood Ave. checking for hot spots and making sure there were no people in the smoldering blaze. Then trouble hit. The two sent mayday signals back to dispatch. Within minutes, the fire department’s rapid intervention team found the pair on the floor, unconscious, and gave them CPR. The two men could not be revived.
Full NIOSH Report F2010- 18 FINAL CT F2010-18
NIOSH Executive Summary
On July 24, 2010, a 40-year-old male career fire lieutenant and a 49-year-old male career fire fighter were found unresponsive at a residential structure fire. The victims and two additional crew members were tasked with conducting a primary search for civilians and fire extension on the 3rd floor of a multifamily residential structure. The fire had been extinguished on the 2nd floor upon their entry into the structure.
While pulling walls and the ceiling on the 3rd floor, smoke and heat conditions changed rapidly. The first firefighter transmitted a Mayday (audibly under duress) that was not acknowledged or acted upon. Minutes later the incident commander ordered an evacuation of the 3rd floor. As a fire fighter exited the 3rd floor, the lieutenant was discovered unconscious and not breathing, sitting on the stairs to the 3rd floor.
Approximately 7 minutes later, the second firefighter was discovered on the 3rd floor in thick, black smoke conditions. Both victims were removed by the rapid intervention team (RIT) and other fire fighters who assisted them. Both victims were pronounced dead at local hospitals.
This timeline is provided to set out, to the extent possible, the sequence of events according to recorded and intelligible radio transmissions. Two channels were used during this incident: the main dispatch channel and channel 2 (fireground). Times are approximate and were obtained from review of the dispatch records, witness interviews, photographs of the scene, and other available information. Times have been rounded to the nearest minute. NIOSH investigators have attempted to include all intelligible radio transmissions, but some may be missing. This timeline is not intended, nor should it be used, as a formal record of events.
The room and contents fire was determined to have originated in a bedroom on the 2nd floor, A/B corner; it was quickly knocked down by E3 (see Photo 2). It is believed that the fire got into the eves when it was lapping out the A/B corner windows, and then spread within the large void spaces in the ceiling and walls of the 3rd floor. The fire was situated toward the A/B corner of the 3rd floor, but the open void areas allowed smoke to accumulate within the ceilings and walls before they were opened.
Operating on the 3rd floor at varying times were members from L5, R5, L11, E4, and E7. Initially, light-to-moderate smoke conditions were observed on the 3rd floor, depending on how close fire fighters were to the A-side of the 3rd floor. Fire fighters recalled the 3rd floor being very hot. TICs used by different individuals on the 3rd floor showed the room to be hot on the A-side and ceiling. Windows on the A-, B-, and D-sides were opened, allowing most of the smoke to self ventilate. Light smoke remained within the 3rd floor, with good visibility.
Extension was checked around A- and B-side baseboards. Some fire fighters recall Victim #1 telling them the fire was in the ceiling and possibly the walls, and to not open those areas until a hoseline was in place. Even after providing horizontal ventilation on the 3rd floor, smoke conditions worsened, banking down to fire fighters‘ chin levels and becoming denser.
While waiting for the hoseline, L5 members were reassigned by the IC to ventilate the roof to provide additional relief to the 3rd floor. The IC reported to NIOSH investigators that he ordered the roof vented because he saw smoke pushing out the B-side windows. Personnel from E4 advanced the charged hoseline to the 3rd floor, allowing the ceilings and walls to be opened. A mixture of thick, brown/black smoke quickly filled the room, reducing visibility.
Built in the early 1900s, the two-and-half-story house (see Photo 1) was purchased approximately 4 years prior to the incident as a multifamily rental occupancy. One family lived in the 1st floor apartment (approx. 1,300 sq. ft.); a second family lived in the 2nd floor apartment (approx. 1,300 sq. ft.) and the owner occupied the finished half-story or attic space (approx. 700 sq. ft.). The house also contained an unfinished basement (approx. 1,300 sq. ft.).
The common front entrance contained access to the 1st floor apartment and a private stairwell, located at the A/D corner of the house, which provided access to the 2nd floor apartment. The house also had a single rear-entry door that provided access to a stairwell that led up to the owner‘s apartment and had landings to access all the apartments from the rear. According to the owner of the house, smoke detectors were installed within the house about a year prior to the incident. These smoke detectors were installed in every bedroom, in each hallway, and in the stairwells.
The house did not have an installed sprinkler system and had been inspected in accordance with Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 8a guidelines, according to the homeowner. The house was Type V wood frame construction, but, during the initial stages of the fire, was presumed by arriving fire fighters to be balloon-framed due to the era when it was constructed. State fire investigators were able to confirm Type V construction after closer inspection.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal‘s building code compliance inspection showed that the house did not meet certain Connecticut Fire Safety Code requirements for this type of structure. NIOSH investigators do not believe that these non-compliance issues contributed to the deaths of the two fire fighters.
Modular homes are built using an engineered approach to produce buildings in a more efficient and cost effect method that can deliver lower home prices per square foot. Instead of the traditional stick-built, on-site construction methods, most of the work is pre-fabricated at an off-site climate controlled factory. As each sub-section is finished it is transported to the building site and constructed together using the same methods the current stick built homes use.
Everyonegoeshome.com Learning Media Center.
A recent informational video was produced and developed on Residential Modular Construction Fires -Lessons Learned. This video discusses the hazards and lessons learned from fighting fires in modular construction homes. Chief Kevin A. Gallagher, Acushnet Fire & EMS Department, MA presented an informative session on operational issues an insights on construction methods and practices.
Everyonegoeshome.com Training Program HERE
Based upon the information presented in the EGH video, here’s some additional information to increase your awareness on this construction system and process. The question is this; “Are you aware of Modular Construction taking place in your response district, first-due area, greater alarm locations or mutual-aid districts?” Operational strategies, tactics and task assignments at buildings constructed of modular construction will perform differently than those of engineered, conventional or legecy construction, continuing the challenages in identifying building construction features, occupany risk and selecting the appropriate operational deployment profile and tactics. Remember, Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
Modular buildings and modular homes are sectional prefabricated buildings or houses that consist of multiple modules or sections which are manufactured in a remote facility and then delivered to their intended site of use. The modules are assembled into a single residential building using either a crane or trucks.
Modular buildings are considerably different from mobile homes. Off-frame modular dwellings differ from mobile homes largely in their absence of axles or a frame, meaning that they are typically transported to their site by means of flat-bed trucks; however, some modular dwellings are built on a steel frame (on-frame modular), which can be used for transportation to the site. Many modular homes are of multi-level design, and are often set in place using a crane.
MODULAR HOMES ARE NOT MOBILE HOMES
Mobile names (also known as manufactured homes) are built according to the federal HUD building Code. This requires all mobile homes to built on a non-removable steel chassis, which severely limits their design options. Modular homes and buildings have no design limitations they can be any shape or size and will meet or exceed you local and state building codes. Modular buildings are just like any traditional building except they are modules (pieces) that are pre-built in factories and then assembled together using giant cranes in a similar fashion to lego blocks. Factory Built Housing (FBH) dates as far back as the early 1900′s with the advent of the Sears & Roebuck homes that were purchased out of a catalog and shipped to the customer. Customers would choose their design and several weeks later their new home (in 30,000 pieces) arrived via railcar! This was the beginning of the factory built concept where components of a home would be constructed off site and shipped to a building location.
After World War II wartime factory production quickly changed over to providing consumer products for a growing post war economy. This included providing housing. The manufactured housing industry saw a dramatic increase in popularity as the nation’s citizens became more affluent.
The 1960’s and early 1970’s saw manufacturers start to create a “modular” home product. This was basically a site built or “stick built” home completed in two units, transported to the building site on flat bed frames and then erected onto a permanent foundation. During this period the style of home was typically limited to a ranch home and normally consisted of a single floor and two major components or modules.
Manufactured and modular construction both grew substantially during the late 1970′s and into the early 1980′s. During this time, traditional builders (stick builders) struggled to keep up with demand. As a result, factory built homes began to emerge in the marketplace. Designs of modular homes moved from the typical ranch style to more complex split level, Cape Cod (1 ½ story) and two-story homes. Commercial applications of modular construction including motels, offices and school classrooms also began to emerge. Multiple rooflines, customized exteriors and more contemporary designs also began to develop.
During the mid-to-late 1990’s growth continued as home manufacturers began to build larger and more complex homes. Modular manufacturers ventured into sophisticated two-story, multi-family dwellings and customized luxury homes.
By this time many high-end modular homes cost more than $500,000, and that only included the unfinished units from the factory. This was in sharp contrast to consumers’ traditional mindset regarding modular homes. The industry had begun to mature and be recognized as a viable option that was in many cases preferable to traditional (stick built) homes.
Since 2000, modular building systems have seen an increase in production due to the favorable building conditions throughout the United States. As the demand for skilled labor and quality materials increases, modular construction will continue to be an attractive option for those seeking top quality construction at competitive prices.
Time Lapse Modular Construction HERE
Articles Recently Posted on Buildingsonfire.com
These are a series of investigative reports that come out of Boston (MA)from Myfoxboston.com and Fox25
Residential Fire Sprinklers: A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH FOR COMMUNITIES
Residential Fire Sprinklers…A Step-By-Step Approach for Communities (Second Edition) – National Fire Sprinkler Association and International Association of Fire Chiefs – has developed and published a comprehensive guide for all stakeholders, from the citizen to the fire chief and from the homebuilder to the elected official, with an interest in improving fire protection in their community. There are a lot of great examples of communities who have been successful in adopting fire sprinkler requirements; this guide expresses some of their tactics to success.
The Guide has been developed by the National Fire Sprinkler Association in cooperation with the International Association of Fire Chiefs to assist you as a local Authority Having Jurisdiction and/or as a community advocate. You can meet the challenge and minimize the loss of life and property to fire in your community through the planning and implementation of a comprehensive residential fire sprinkler program.
The Guide essentially consists of six sections intended to systematically support the process of developing, adopting, and defending a residential fire sprinkler requirements.
While these sections focus on the residential dwelling segment of the current fire sprinkler market and technology, the concepts described in each of these sections may be found to be helpful in addressing similar issues with other types of occupancies for which fire sprinkler ordinances are appropriate. The most effective means of reducing community risk is achieved when current fire and building codes are adopted and enforced as well as all buildings, residential included, are protected with fire sprinklers.
The Guide will also discuss the collection and use of statistical data and show how it can be used effectively to reflect issues specific to your community. The outline, which helps to focus on the use of a Blue-Ribbon Task Force (working group),may be useful in opening lines of communication between the agency and its “stakeholders” and “unexpected messengers” who will be impacted by the adoption of the residential fire sprinkler requirements. These types of working groups can often resolve problems before they become a political issue.
And finally, the Guide defines some materials that should be obtained, so that the information collected can be “user friendly” and effective throughout the process. Also incorporated in this Guide is a list of other resources, which may be helpful in the planning, research, analysis, or other phases of the process. The National Fire Sprinkler Association and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and their staff and membership stand united and committed to assisting you in this undertaking.
The resources referenced in the guide are as comprehensive as exists when it comes to fire sprinklers in all new construction, especially residential fire sprinklers. With a majority of the fire deaths in the United States occurring in residential buildings, and billions of dollars in fire loss attributed to the direct and indirect costs associated with residential fires, it is time for state and local fire and building officials to seek the solutions to this national tragedy.
The people who use this guide will play different roles in the process to improve quality of life in the community through fire protection improvements. The amount of time spent to ensure a safer future for the community will vary depending on the role in the community. The authors strongly recommend that regardless of the role, everyone involved should make the commitment to read this guide as a minimum. Each section of this guide contains information important to each stakeholder in the process. As you read through it, pay particular attention to the parts directly related to your role, also look for the other perspectives in relation to yours. Taking this action will help to ensure the outcome focuses on the citizen and the quality of life of the community.
You can find a wealth of reference and technical information at the National Fire Sprinkler Association web site HERE and download the Residential Fire Sprinklers…A Step-By-Step Approach for Communities (Second Edition) Guide HERE
On March 30, 2010, a 28-year-old male career fire fighter/paramedic (victim) died and a 21-year-old female part-time fire fighter/paramedic was injured when caught in an apparent flashover while operating a hoseline within a residence. Units arrived on scene to find heavy fire conditions at the rear of a house and moderate smoke conditions within the uninvolved areas of the house. A search and rescue crew had made entry into the house to search for a civilian who was entrapped at the rear of the house. The victim, the injured fire fighter/paramedic, and a third fire fighter made entry into the home with a charged 2 ½ inch hoseline. Thick, black rolling smoke banked down to knee level after the hoseline was advanced 12 feet into the kitchen area. While ventilation activities were occurring, the search and rescue crew observed fire rolling across the ceiling within the smoke. They immediately yelled to the hoseline crew to “get out.” The search and rescue crew were able to exit the structure safely, then returned to rescue the injured fire fighter/paramedic first and then the victim. The victim was found wrapped in the 2 ½ inch hoseline that had ruptured and without his facepiece on. He was quickly brought out of the structure, received medical care on scene, and was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Discussion: Among the most important duties of the first officer on the scene is conducting an initial 360 degree situational size-up of the incident. A proper size-up begins from the moment the alarm is received, and it continues until the fire is under control. The size-up should include an evaluation of factors such as the fire size and location, length of time the fire has been burning, conditions on arrival, occupancy, fuel load and presence of combustible or hazardous materials, exposures, time of day, available staffing on scene or en route, and weather conditions. Information on the structure itself should include size, construction type, age, condition (e.g., evidence of deterioration, weathering), renovations, lightweight construction, loads on roof and walls (e.g., air conditioning units, ventilation ductwork, utility entrances), and available preplan information-all key information that can affect whether an offensive or defensive strategy is employed. The size-up should also include a risk-versus-gain assessment during incident operations, especially after primary searches have been conducted, situational awareness, and a survivability profile.
Even before the IC takes command of an incident he will be faced with having to determine what critical tasks are going to have to be performed to bring the incident under control. He will use current knowledge and previous experience to formulate a plan for his arriving apparatus and personnel. When the IC arrives he needs to ascertain as much information as possible to make a determination whether his plan will still work. The IC may be faced with several priorities such as an entrapped civilian, a larger scale incident then previously determined, and the fire environment itself. This is additionally part of the initial situational size-up and the risk assessment, which will constantly change as the incident progresses until it is brought under control. The IC should be willing to prioritize and change his strategy and plan based on these assessments. Situational awareness is a highly critical aspect of human decision making: the understanding of what is happening around you, projecting future situation events, comprehending information and its relevance, being realistic, and an individual’s perception. Conducting accurate risk assessments and receiving interior/exterior status updates is critical to the safety of fire fighters in the incident, rescue/recovery efforts, and overall control of the incident. “The decision to commit interior fire fighting personnel should be made on a case-by-case basis with proper risk-benefit decisions being made by the incident commander. The commitment of firefighters’ lives for saving property and an unknown or marginal risk of civilian life must be balanced appropriately.”
Another tool that the IC should consider using is survivability profiling. Survivability profiling uses the knowledge learned of fire behavior and spread, smoke (i.e., color, condition, movement), and building construction to examine a situation and make an intelligent decision of whether to commit fire fighters to life saving and/or interior operations. In other words, survivability profiling involves assessing the probability that a trapped occupant is still alive and can safely be rescued with the current or impending conditions. The NIOSH publication Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Fire Fighters Using Risk Management Principles at Structure Fires states that the IC must make a determination that offensive (interior) operations may be conducted without exceeding a reasonable degree of risk to fire fighters before ordering an offensive attack and must be prepared to discontinue the offensive attack if the risk evaluation changes during the fire fighting operation. The fireground is very dynamic, and conditions can either improve or deteriorate based on fire suppression activities, and available resources. Most importantly, assessments/size-ups of the incident are necessary to detect a change on the fireground.
During this incident, the responding departments were made aware while en route that there was a paralyzed civilian entrapped in the structure. His wife advised 911 and arriving units that the chair he was sitting in caught fire with him still in it. Units arrived on scene 6 minutes after the 911 call to find heavy fire conditions to the addition on the C-side of the house where the entrapped civilian was last seen by his wife sitting in the chair. Prior to a complete 360 degree situational size-up, decisions were made to send a hoseline crew through the A-side front door to assist with search and rescue, and to locate and attack the fire (located on the C-side in the addition and garage). Fire fighters entering the house from the A-side were initially met with moderate smoke conditions banked down to waist level, which quickly changed to thick, black smoke conditions that went to the floor due to the fire being uncontrolled and spreading into the house from the C-side. The victim and injured fire fighter/paramedic were eventually exposed to a flashover. The civilian was not rescued. A full range of factors must be considered in making the risk evaluation including a realistic evaluation of the ability to execute a successful offensive fire attack with the resources that are available and a realistic evaluation of occupant survivability and rescue potential.
Fire departments should be aware of the recently released 2010 International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Rules of Engagement (ROE) of Structural Firefighting. These guidelines recommend that ICs conduct or obtain a 360 degree situational incident size-up, determine the occupant survival profile, and conduct an initial risk assessment.
Discussion: An assessment and decision of suppression methods must be made before attacking a fire in hopes of extinguishing it and keeping fire fighters safe while doing so. To accomplish such tasks, ICs, officers, and fire fighters need to consider such factors as fire load and flow, hose and nozzle selection, placement and use of fire streams, and required staffing. Fire load, or heat released from combustible materials, will directly affect how the fire develops throughout the incident and how long and severely it may burn. The more combustible materials involved, the greater the heat that will be produced requiring additional fire flow. Fire flow is the calculated amount of water in gallons per minute needed to extinguish a fire in a specific structure. To assist fire fighters in calculating the fire flow, one of three formulas could be used: the Iowa Rate-of-Flow Formula, the National Fire Academy (NFA) Formula, and the Insurance Services Office Formula. The Iowa Rate-of-Flow and NFA Formulas were designed to be used on the fireground because they allow fire fighters to mentally compute the fire flow with relative ease by estimating such things as the square footage (area) of a structure or the cubic footage (volume) of a room, and percentage involved, then inputting that data into a predetermined formula.
Iowa Rate-of-Flow Formula: rate of fire flow=volume of room in cubic feet÷100
NFA Formula: fire flow in gallons per minute for one floor at 100% involvement=(length ×width)÷3. If less than 100% involvement,then multiply answer by estimated percentage of involvement.
The fire stream, or water stream, is an important aspect both for fire fighter safety and tactical considerations. The wrong choice of fire stream can place a fire fighter and crew in a bad situation. Also, the wrong type of fire stream will affect the tactical outcome of the incident in regards to how quickly the fire is controlled. To produce an effective fire flow, there must be a viable water supply; sufficient water pressure; a means to transport the stream to the desired point (fire); and trained, competent personnel to deploy these three elements. These elements are applied through the use of a fire hose and nozzle. The diameter of the fire hose can affect how much water is flowed on a fire, but the larger the diameter, the more potential to max out the delivering pump’s capacity, and additional personnel will be needed to handle the hoseline. The nozzle will allow the water to leave its mechanical hold within the hoseline to produce the desired fire stream. Typical fire streams include solid, fog, and broken, and each have their own characteristics, advantages/disadvantages, and application. Proper training on all these aspects will greatly influence fire fighter’s knowledge on the fireground, provide for quicker control and extinguishment of the fire, and increase overall fire fighter safety.
During this incident, arriving fire departments were faced with a large volume of fire and an entrapped civilian. Prior to the flashover, the fire was burning uncontrolled at the rear of the house (house addition and garage) and spreading into the house. FF1, the victim, and injured fire fighter/paramedic were tasked with advancing a charged 2½-inch hoseline into the house to assist with the search and for fire suppression. They were able to advance this hoseline approximately 12 feet into the house, but advancing and operating a large-diameter hoseline within tight quarters may be extremely cumbersome even if adequate staffing is available to accomplish this task. Note: When FF1 had a problem with his PPE, he handed the nozzle over to the victim, and eventually backed out of the structure, that left only two personnel available to operate the hoseline. Fire fighters and officers need to understand that while a 2½-inch hoseline provides a greater flow, fire fighters need to be able to move the line quickly and efficiently interiorly, especially when performing a search and experiencing deteriorating fire conditions. An alternate decision to advancing the 2½-inch hoseline into the small house could have been to deploy and advance a 1¾-inch hoseline(s), which would have been easier to maneuver within the house.
Due to the large volume of fire at the C-side that was extending into the house, the 2½-inch hoseline(s) could have been deployed exteriorly to the B- and/or D-sides to combat the fire, paying close attention to directly attack the fire, an elevated master stream (carefully directed on fire burning uncontrolled within the addition and garage) could have been deployed early into the fire had the assessment been made that the entrapped civilian (last reported to be in the addition) could not be saved, thus possibly stopping further progression of fire and volatile smoke into the house. Additionally, a lightweight portable master stream, placed exteriorly at the B- and/or D-sides, which is fairly easy to deploy by using a 2½- to 3-inch supply line, may only require one fire fighter to operate once in position. These types of water delivery appliances are capable of delivering a large volume of water that will assist in extinguishing the fire from an exterior position, especially when conditions are deteriorating interiorly, which could place fire fighter’s safety at risk.
An incident commander needs to constantly assess whether his strategies and tactics to control and extinguish the fire are working, paying close attention to fire and smoke conditions/changes, the affects from ventilation performed by fire fighters and occurring naturally as the fire progresses, and to fire fighter safety.
Discussion: Fire fighters should always work and remain in teams whenever they are operating in a hazardous environment. Team integrity depends on team members knowing who is on their team and who is the team leader; staying within visual contact at all times (if visibility is low, teams must stay within touch or voice distance of each other); communicating needs and observations to the team leader; and rotating together for team rehab, team staging, and watching out for each other (e.g., practicing a strong buddy system). Following these basic rules helps prevent serious injury or even death by providing personnel with the added safety net of fellow team members. Teams that enter a hazardous environment together should leave together to ensure that team continuity is maintained.The 2010 IAFC ROE of Structural Firefighting states, “Go in together, stay together, come out together.”
Discussion: Reading fire behavior indicators and recognizing fire conditions serve as the basis for predicting likely and potential fire behavior. Reading the fire requires recognition of patterns of key fire behavior indicators. It is essential to consider these indicators together and not to focus on the most obvious indicators or one specific indicator (e.g., smoke). Identifying building factors, smoke, wind direction, air movement, heat and flame indicators are all critical to reading the fire. Focusing on reading “smoke” may result in fire fighters missing other critical indicators of potential fire behavior. One important concept that must be emphasized is that smoke is fuel and must be viewed as potential energy. Smoke that is thick, black and pressurized can emit from a structure at a high rate. This is indicative of a potentially under-ventilated structure or a ventilation controlled fire. This smoke is fuel-rich and is termed “black fire.” It can potentially do as much damage as fire itself, but it is an indicator that some type of extreme fire behavior may occur.
Since the IC should be staged at a designated command post (outside), the interior conditions should be communicated by interior company officers (or the member supervising the crew) as soon as possible to their supervisor (e.g., IC, division supervisor). Knowledge of interior conditions could change the IC’s strategy or tactics. Interior crews can aid the IC in this process by providing reports of the interior conditions as soon as they enter the fire building and by providing regular updates. In addition to the importance of communicating reports on fire conditions, it is essential that fire fighters recognize what type of information is important. Command effectiveness can be impaired by excessive and extraneous information as well as from a lack of information. In the case of communicating observations related to fire behavior, this requires development of fire fighters’ skill in recognition of key fire behavior indicators and reading the fire.
During this incident, FF1 made a decision to quickly open and close the smooth bore nozzle (water applied as a solid stream) while aiming at the ceiling. It is believed this was done in an attempt to cool the thermal (hot gas) layer, a common practice, in hopes of preventing a potential flashover. Ceiling temperatures can be reduced through carefully considered fire control actions, such as applying short bursts of water spray into the hot gas layer, or directly applying water onto the fire itself which will limit the release of unburned products of combustion as well as reduce ceiling temperature.
Also, the search and rescue crew (operating without the protection of a hoseline) were able to make a quick determination that the conditions within the house were imminent to flashover. They made an attempt to alert the victim and injured fire fighter/paramedic, but were too late. If conditions are right for a flashover, there are only seconds to make a decision. Fire fighters will be met with a sudden increase in heat and rollover within the ceiling level. The injured fire fighter/paramedic was unaware that the conditions she was operating in deteriorated quickly. She remembers thick, black smoke pushing down to the floor while in the structure and then “the room and everything in it caught fire.” Prior to the flashover, windows on the B-side were vented and thick, black and heavily pressurized smoke billowed from these windows. The IC, and individuals working on the exterior, need to recognize this as a potential for extreme fire behavior and evacuate interior crews. Obtaining proper training and hands-on experience through the use of a flashover simulator may assist interior fire fighters in making sound decisions on when to evacuate a structure fire.
Discussion: Ventilation is the systematic removal of heated air, smoke, and fire gases from a burning building and replacing them with cooler air.1 The two types of ventilation are vertical and horizontal. During vertical ventilation the natural convection of the heated gases creates upward currents that draw the fire and heat in the direction of the vertical opening. Horizontal ventilation allows for heat, smoke, and gases to escape by means of a doorway or window but is highly influenced by the location and extent of the fire, and special caution should be taken if the fire is in the attic.
Properly coordinated ventilation can decrease the rate the fire spreads, increase visibility, and lower the potential for flashover or backdraft. Proper ventilation reduces the threat of flashover by removing heat before combustibles in a room or enclosed area reach their ignition temperatures. Proper ventilation can reduce the risk of a backdraft by reducing the potential for superheated fire gases and smoke to accumulate in an enclosed area. Properly ventilating a structure fire will reduce the tendency for rising heat, smoke, and fire gases, trapped by the roof or ceiling, to accumulate, bank down, and spread laterally to other areas within the structure. The ventilation opening may produce a chimney effect, causing air movement from within a structure toward the opening. These air movements help facilitate the venting of smoke, hot gases, and products of combustion but may also cause the fire to grow in intensity and may endanger fire fighters who are between the fire and the ventilation opening. For this reason, ventilation should be closely coordinated with hoseline placement and offensive fire suppression tactics. Close coordination means the hoseline is in place and ready to operate, so that when ventilation occurs, the hoseline can overcome the increase in combustion, which is likely to occur. If a ventilation opening is made directly above a fire, fire spread may be reduced, allowing fire fighters the opportunity to extinguish the fire. If the opening is made elsewhere, the chimney effect may actually contribute to the spread of the fire.1
ICs and fire fighters need to consider the following and how it will affect ventilation and overall control of the fire:
Fire development in a compartment may be described in several stages, although the boundaries between these stages may not be clearly defined.1 The incipient stage starts with ignition, followed by growth, fully developed, and decay stages. The available fuel largely controls the growth of the fire during the early stages. This is known as a fuel-controlled fire, and ventilation during this time may initially slow the spread of the fire as smoke, hot gases, and products of incomplete combustion are removed. As noted above, increased ventilation can also cause the fire to grow in intensity as additional oxygen is introduced. Effective application of water during this time can suppress the fire but if the fire is not quickly knocked down, it may continue to grow.
If the fire grows until the compartment approaches a fully developed state, the fire is likely to become ventilation controlled. Further fire growth is limited by the available air supply as the fire consumes the oxygen in the compartment. Ventilating the compartment at this point will allow a fresh air supply (with oxygen to support combustion), which may accelerate the fire growth, resulting in an increased heat release rate. If coordinated fire suppression activities do not quickly decrease the heat release rate, a ventilation induced flashover can occur.1 Considering that most fires beyond the incipient stage are or will quickly become ventilation controlled, changes in ventilation are likely to be some of the most significant factors in changing fire behavior.
During this incident, uncoordinated ventilation occurred while the hoseline and search and rescue crews were inside the house. The victim and other fire fighters, within the small house, were between the fire and the ventilation source. One fire fighter accounts heavy, turbulent, black smoke pushing from a window on the B-side after it was broken. Shortly after, the house sustained an apparent ventilation-induced flashover.
Discussion: Fire fighters are tasked at times to operate within environments which pose inhalation hazards (e.g., toxic smoke and oxygen deficiency),defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). Proper training along with an implemented and enforced policy or procedure will assist fire fighters with proper maintenance, use, and removal of a SCBA. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134 (g)(4)(iii) states, “The employer shall ensure that all employees engaged in interior structural firefighting use SCBAs.”
According to the autopsy report, the victim died from carbon monoxide intoxication due to inhalation of smoke and soot. The medical examiner also indicated that the victim’s COHb level (a measure of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream) was 30%. Even if nothing but carbon dioxide, water vapor, and nitrogen were present in the fire products and these were to mix with the air being breathed by a fire fighter, then the oxygen percentage would be reduced below the normal 21%. At 15% oxygen, fire fighters can experience lethargy, poor coordination, and confused thinking. The two principal toxins in smoke—carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide—act to deprive the brain of oxygen, and their effects would be enhanced due to the lower levels of oxygen in the air. The victim was discovered with his facepiece off, but still connected to his regulator. Due to the smoke conditions, the victim would have had to have been on air when entering the structure. It has not been determined why the victim was found without his facepiece on.
Emergencies created by, or associated with, SCBA can be overcome in several ways. Fire departments can develop and implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program that includes fire fighter fitness, training, and competency and skill assessments in SCBA and emergency procedures. Firefighters should remember the first rule in any emergency situation-to not panic. Panic causes an increased breathing rate and consequently, an increase in air consumption; and an inability to focus on emergency procedures. If fire fighters become lost, trapped, or disoriented, they need to focus on managing remaining air in their SCBA cylinder until other fire fighters can make a rescue attempt. Removing one’s facepiece in an IDLH atmosphere can immediately expose the respiratory system to a potentially fatal environment, thus incapacitating an individual. Choosing to leave one’s SCBA facepiece on may be the best chance in providing additional time for a fire fighter to be rescued. Fire fighters should follow their department’s SOPs regarding emergency SCBA procedures and emergency communications.
Discussion: NFPA 1710 Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments contains recommended guidelines for minimum staffing of career fire departments. NFPA 1710 states the following: “On-duty fire suppression personnel shall be comprised of the numbers necessary for fire-fighting performance relative to the expected fire-fighting conditions. These numbers shall be determined through task analyses that take the following factors into consideration:
The NFPA standard states that both engine and truck companies shall be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel. The standard also states that companies shall be staffed with a minimum of five or six on-duty members in jurisdictions with tactical hazards, high-hazard occupancies, high-incident frequencies, geographical restrictions, or other pertinent factors identified by the authority having jurisdiction.
During this incident, the victim’s department responded with three personnel on the engine and two personnel on the ambulance, but the Still assignment also consisted of an engine, two ladder trucks, and a squad, with four fire personnel on each. It was routine to have an ambulance respond with an engine on a first due fire assignment. Due to short staffing, the ambulance personnel were tasked with fire suppression activities, thus taking them out-of-service as a medical unit. Also, due to short staffing, the lieutenant/acting officer (IC) was required to ride and operate as the officer of E534. This removed him from his command response vehicle which would have allowed him to command at a tactical level versus having to potentially perform tasks.
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. Emergency medical care and transportation for injured or ill fire fighters should be immediately available on the scene of working structure fires. Many fire departments incorporate an automatic dispatch of an EMS unit to working structure fires. Automatic dispatch can help to ensure that qualified emergency medical care and transportation for injured or ill fire fighters is available without having to call and wait for a unit after a medical emergency or injury has occurred.
During this incident, the victim and the injured fire fighter/paramedic responded in an ambulance. Upon their arrival to the scene, the IC immediately tasked them with interior operations due to staffing issues. The IC did not request an additional ambulance to respond to the scene for medical care until after the victim was down within the house. Additional resources (e.g., apparatus and personnel) arrived minutes after the ambulance’s arrival.
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. It is important that fire service personnel have an efficient means of communicating during an emergency incident. The use of radio communications provides fire fighters on scene with the ability to communicate to individuals they cannot see or to receive vital information about the incident. To assist with this, localities should ensure that communications can occur without having to utilize different radios and/or monitor multiple channels/frequencies.
During this incident, the IC had to monitor more than one radio and even had to go to the cab of his engine to accomplish this task. Having to monitor multiple radios and potentially take your eyes off the scene for a moment could be extremely detrimental to the management of the incident.
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. The use of an accountability system is recommended by NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program and NFPA 1561 Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System.21 A functional personnel accountability system requires the following:
As the incident escalates, additional staffing and resources may be needed, adding to the burden of tracking personnel. At this point, an accountability system should be in place which includes an incident command board that is established and maintained by an assigned accountability officer or aide. A properly maintained incident command board allows the IC to readily identify the location and time of all fire fighters on the fireground. As a fire escalates and additional fire companies respond, a chief’s aide or accountability officer assists the IC with accounting for all fire fighting companies at the fire, at the staging area, and at the rehabilitation area. The personnel accountability report (PAR) is an organized on-scene roll call in which each supervisor reports the status of his crew when requested by the IC or emergency dispatcher.1 A properly initiated and enforced accountability system on every response, which is consistently integrated into fireground command and control, enhances fire fighter safety and survival by helping to ensure a more timely and successful identification and rescue of a disoriented or downed fire fighter.
During this incident, the accountability system was never set in place and a PAR was not conducted following the Mayday.
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program states, “The fire department shall provide each member with protective clothing and protective equipment that is designed to provide protection from the hazards to which the member is likely to be exposed and is suitable for the tasks that the member is expected to perform…protective clothing and protective equipment shall be used whenever a member is exposed or potentially exposed to the hazards for which the protective clothing (and equipment) is provided.” NFPA 1971 Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting has established minimum requirements for structural fire fighting protective ensembles and ensemble elements designed to provide fire fighting personnel limited protection from thermal, physical, environmental, and bloodborne pathogen hazards encountered during structural fire fighting operations. These requirements will assist in protecting firefighters, but only if they wear the PPE as recommended by the manufacturer.
During this incident, the victim was discovered without a hood over his head or rolled down on his neck. NIOSH investigators could not determine whether this equipment was properly donned prior to the incident.
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. According to NFPA 1561 Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System,“The incident commander shall have overall authority for management of the incident and the incident commander shall ensure that adequate safety measures are in place.” This shall include overall responsibility for the safety and health of all personnel and for other persons operating within the incident management system. While the incident commander is in overall command at the scene, certain functions must be delegated to ensure adequate scene management is accomplished.According to NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program,“as incidents escalate in size and complexity, the incident commander shall divide the incident into tactical-level management units and assign an incident safety officer (ISO) to assess the incident scene for hazards or potential hazards.” These standards indicate that the incident commander is in overall command at the scene but acknowledge that oversight of all operations is difficult. On-scene fire fighter health and safety is best preserved by delegating the function of safety and health oversight to the ISO. Additionally, the incident commander relies upon fire fighters and the ISO to relay feedback on fireground conditions in order to make timely, informed decisions regarding risk versus gain and offensive-versus-defensive operations. The safety of all personnel on the fireground is directly impacted by clear, concise, and timely communications among mutual aid fire departments, sector command, the ISO, and the incident commander. NFPA 1521 Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer defines the role of the ISO at an incident scene and identifies duties such as recon of the fireground and reporting pertinent information back to the incident commander; ensuring the department’s accountability system is in place and operational; monitoring radio transmissions and identifying barriers to effective communications; and ensuring established safety zones, collapse zones, hot zones, and other designated hazard areas are communicated to all members on scene. Larger fire departments may assign one or more full-time staff officers as safety officers who respond to working fires. In smaller departments, every officer should be prepared to function as the ISO when assigned by the incident commander. The presence of a safety officer does not diminish the responsibility of individual fire fighters and fire officers for their own safety and the safety of others. The ISO adds a higher level of attention and expertise to help the fire fighters and fire officers. The ISO must have particular expertise in analyzing safety hazards and must know the particular uses and limitations of protective equipment.3
Discussion: Although there is no evidence that this recommendation would have prevented this fatality, it is being provided as a reminder of a good safety practice. NFPA 1561 Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System states, “To enable responders to be notified of an emergency condition or situation when they are assigned to an area designated as immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH), at least one responder on each crew or company shall be equipped with a portable radio and each responder on the crew or company shall be equipped with either a portable radio or another means of electronic communication. Radio communications on the fireground are imperative for the IC to command and control the incident and for fire fighters to work effectively and safely within a structure fire. Fire fighters within a structure are unable to see all areas affected by fire and whether the structure is maintaining its stability. Having radio communications can enhance fire fighter safety and health by providing fire fighters a means to communicate with other crew members or with the IC when they find themselves in need of assistance.
During this incident, the victim did have a radio, but it was positioned in the back pocket of his station pants. Thus, when he donned his bunker pants, his radio became inaccessible during the incident.
Discussion: Structural fires frequently display indicators and warning signs of rapid fire development such as flashover, backdraft, and fire gas ignition for which many fire fighters and officers may not have been sufficiently trained to recognize or understand. It is imperative that fire fighters and officers develop the understanding and skills necessary to identify and interpret the indicators so that they can anticipate the potential for extreme fire behavior and immediately communicate their findings to the IC. This requires comprehensive training in fire behavior (theory) and practical application inclusive of realistic live fire training.
NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications and NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications were developed to ensure that fire fighters and officers have the skills necessary to perform their job, also known as job performance requirements (JPRs). Currently, these JPRs include language that individuals have requisite knowledge on such topics as heat transfer, principles of thermal layering, advantages and disadvantages of different types of ventilation, and fire behavior in a structure. These standards do not include guidance on how many hours or what available scientific information will be used to verify that an individual has a sound understanding of the physical, chemical, and thermal behavior of fire and how to make a connection between fire dynamics/behavior and the influence of tactical operations (e.g., fire flow, types of ventilation) and external factors (e.g., wind). These JPRs are taken by curriculum developers and formatted into educational content. Standard setting agencies, states, curriculum developers, and other authorities having jurisdiction should consider developing a nationwide curriculum so that fire fighters and officers receive fundamental and refresher training on how to: recognize and interpret fire behavior and indications of impending extreme fire behavior (e.g., flashover, back draft, smoke explosion); and, anticipate what could or should happen when a tactical operation is performed (e.g., ventilation, fire flow). Standard setting agencies and curriculum developers should also consider providing guidelines (e.g., required topics and hours) for instructors to deliver such information and recommendations for verifying an individual’s learning and retention.
According to documented training reviewed by NIOSH investigators, the victim, injured fire fighter/paramedic, and IC had a combined 24 hours of fire behavior training out of 5,654 total combined training hours. Additional fire behavior training to include such areas as theory, chemistry, physics, smoke reading, current research, and the cause and effects of tactics during fire suppression operations may improve fire fighter safety.
NIOSH REPORT: HERE
Previous Video Coverage, HERE
The Colerain Township (OH) Fire and EMS Department under the leadership of Director and Chief G. Bruce Smith recently released its final report Investigation Analysis of the Squirrels nest Lane Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths related to the April 4, 2008 Double Line of Duty Death of a Captain and Firefighter. This investigative analysis and report, although specific to the events and conditions encountered during the conduct of operation at the residential occupancy at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane has pertinent and relevant insights, recommendations and factors that all Fire Service personnel, regardless of rank should read.
This is one of those distinctive reports that has influential and critical operational, training and preparedness elements embedded throughout the report. Following my review of the report, having previously read the preliminary report findings, it is apparent there continues to be common threads shared by this and other events and incidents 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.
I have provided a comprehensive synopsis of the report for your review. Take the time to read the entire report, make the time to improve where you need to.
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.
The investigation of this incident provided a number of findings and recommendations that should be considered by Colerain’s fire department, as well as other fire department organizations. The examination encompassed issues that related to building construction, firefighting tactics, command and control, situational awareness, communications, training, firefighting equipment and the individual responsibility of firefighters of the Colerain Township Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (Colerain Fire & EMS). In addition, a segment of the examination included a review of the individual and group affects following such an event, and the measures initiated that attempted to ensure individual, family and organizational wellness.
The following factors were believed to have directly contributed to the deaths of Captain Broxterman and Firefighter Schira:
Although the aforementioned factors were believed to have directly contributed to their deaths, they might have been prevented if:
On Friday, April 4, 2008, at 06:11:23, the Hamilton County Communications Center (HCCC) received notification of an automatic alarm activation (smoke detector and carbon monoxide) at 5708 Squirrels nest Lane (LN).
Property and Building Description: The building at 5708 Squirrels nest LN was a single-family residence that set back approximately 450-feet from the street at the end of a private driveway on a heavily wooded lot.
The building was located approximately 450-feet from the curb and a driveway leading to the front entrance. The nearest fire hydrant was located approximately 500- feet from the front entrance. To provide for uniform identification of locations and operationalforces at the incident scene, the scene was divided geographically into smaller parts, which were designated as sectors. Specific areas of the incident scene were designated as follows:
Initial Fire Attack Operation: Upon arrival at the incident address, Engine 102 (E102), assigned four personnel (one captain, one fire apparatus operator [FAO], and two firefighters) entered and proceeded down the driveway deploying a five-inch supply hose line.
District 25 (D25) arrived at the scene at 06:26:35 and assumed Command from Capt. Broxterman. Capt. Broxterman, Firefighter (Ffr.) Schira and E102’s Ffr. #2 advanced a 1¾-inch pre-connected hose line through the front main entrance. The fire was determined to be located in the basement of the building.
Rescue and Recovery Operations
Fire Origin and Cause: Information from the property owners was that the female had smelled an odor in the house. She told her husband, who went to investigate. Neither of them observed any smoke or flames at that time. The husband went to the basement, and located a fire near a cedar wood lined closet used to cultivate orchids in the unfinished utility room. He attempted to extinguish the fire with portable fire extinguishers and pans of water. As the fire alarm activated, the husband had his wife call 9-1-1 to report the fire. The state of Ohio Fire Marshal’s Office Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau ruled the fire to be accidental in nature. The fire was determined to have originated in the unfinished utility room of the basement level in or near the cedar closet. This area was directly below the family room on the first floor. The probable ignition source for this fire was determined to be at and about a plastic air circulation fan and the associated electrical wiring.
Cause of Deaths
Capt. Broxterman was a 37-year old employee of the Colerain Fire & EMS with approximately 17-years of certified firefighting experience. Capt. Broxterman became trapped in the basement area for a prolonged amount of time following the sudden floor collapse. Capt. Broxterman was found positioned face down over top of Ffr. Schira. The majority of her protective clothing ensemble and equipment were heavily damaged as a result of exposure to heat and direct flame impingement. She was pronounced deceased following her removal from the building. Her body was transported to the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office for autopsy. The Coroner’s report cited the manner of death as “accidental” and the cause of death as “burns and inhalation of smoke and superheated and noxious gases.” Capt. Broxterman sustained burns to 100% of her body surface, which ranged from first to fourth degree in severity as described in the coroner’s autopsy report. Postmortem carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), which is a measure of carbon monoxide exposure, was measured at 22% saturation and soot was observed in portions of her upper and lower respiratory system.
Ffr. Schira was a 29-year old employee of Colerain Fire & EMS with approximately 3½-years of certified firefighting experience. He also became trapped in the basement area for a prolonged amount of time following the sudden floor collapse. Ffr. Schira was found positioned on his right side and back, face-up beneath Capt. Broxterman. The majority of his protective clothing ensemble and equipment was heavily damaged as a result of exposure to heat and direct flame impingement. Ffr. Schira was pronounced deceased following his removal from the building. His body was transported to the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office for autopsy. The Coroner’s report cited the manner of death as “accidental” and the cause of death as “burns and inhalation of smoke and superheated and noxious gases”. Ffr. Schira sustained burns to 100% of his body surface, which ranged from first to fourth degree in severity as described in the coroner’s autopsy report. Postmortem COhb was measured at 8% saturation and soot was observed in portions of his upper and lower respiratory system.
Select Findings and Recommendations
Findings, Discussions and Recommendations
FINDING #3.1: The area of fire origin had no finished ceiling, which exposed the floor joists and the underside of the floor decking to direct fire impingement causing rapid deterioration and failure of the flooring system directly underneath the main-level family room.
During this incident, based on communications transcripts (telephone and radio) it’s probable that the fire had advanced from its incipient stage to a free burning stage in approximately 18 to 20-minutes by the time Capt. Broxterman radioed that they were making entry into the basement.
It has been widely believed in the firefighting profession that traditional sawn lumber is far superior to some of the more innovative lightweight construction components (e.g., wood I-joist) in use today. With dimensional lumber, two-inch by eight-inch and larger, there is a greater surface to mass ratio to resist the damaging effects of fire and the structural components will maintain their integrity for a longer period of time. While this has traditionally been accurate, this incident clearly shows that this may not always be the case. Heavy charring was evident to structural members in the fire area of origin. Notice the burn damage shows how the wooden floor joists had been burned to and away from the band joist. A band joist is a vertical member that forms the perimeter of a floor system in which the floor joists tie in to. Also known as the rim joist. Early platform framed homes very likely used solid, dimensional lumber and plywood, which provided a reasonable surface to mass ratio. But the later the home was built, the less mass even dimensional lumber has due to the reduction in the actual thickness of solid dimensional lumber provided by the lumber industry through the mid-1900’s. As the years go by, building materials will likely keep getting lighter and lighter and introduce more resins and other chemicals.
Laboratory tests that exposed structural wood components to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E119 Assembly Test indicated that a traditional two-inch by ten-inch structural member failed in 12-minutes and six-seconds. ASTM E119 test is the standard test method for evaluating building and construction materials exposed to fire. Unlike the standardized ASTM test fires, it is widely recognized that real building fires are highly variable in their size, rate of growth and intensity. Responding firefighters are unlikely to know when a given fire started, how hot it had been prior to arrival, how long it had been at any given temperature, the design capacity and actual loads on the floors over the fire or the amount of actual damage that the fire may have done to the joists. All of these factors make it impossible to predict the remaining capacity of a floor by even the most knowledgeable, professional fire experts.
RECOMMENDATION #3.1a: Fire departments should ensure that firefighters and incident commanders are aware that unprotected floor and ceiling joist systems, no matter the type, may fail at a faster rate when exposed to direct fire impingement.
Unfinished basement ceilings and other areas that have exposed joists or trusses jeopardize flooring and roof systems unnecessarily during a fire, causing premature failure. Often, a weakened floor and ceiling joist system can be difficult to detect from above as the floor surface above may still appear intact. Firefighters operating on floors above fire-damaged joist systems may fall through a weakened area and become trapped in a fire below. IC’s and firefighters must be aware that these systems can fail rapidly and without warning, and plan interior operations accordingly.
Firefighters must also be aware that while floor sag may be a widely accepted warning of an impending structural failure, floor sag is not always present or visible prior to a catastrophic collapse in a fire, regardless of the joist type, due to floor coverings, the fire’s intensity, the combination of joist spans and loads present, the location of serious structural fire damage or simply because it is too dark and smoky to see a sag in the floor. This is true for all types of structural joists, including materials such as sawn lumber, wood I-joists, and open web wood trusses and noncombustible members such as lightweight steel joists. The floor covering in this area was carpeting that transitioned to ceramic tile. When unprotected, any traditional or lightweight residential floor or ceiling assembly material, either combustible or noncombustible, may fail within several minutes of the fire’s ignition. It makes sense, therefore, that when there is a serious fire beneath a floor, there is no predictable safe amount of time that anyone can remain on that floor. Any floor system protected or not, can fail unpredictably when exposed to a substantial fire beneath.
FINDING # 4.2: E102′s officer failed to properly analyze the scene by not performing a 360-degree scene size-up to determine an overall strategy, and implement safe and effective firefighting tactics.
After the apparatus was positioned in front of the building, E102’s FAO was ordered by Capt. Broxterman to, “Ask the homeowner where the fire [location] was”, which was indicated to be in the basement by the male homeowner. As this was taking place, Capt. Broxterman continued donning her protective clothing ensemble (coat, helmet and self-contained breathing apparatus). Although E102′s officer provided a brief radio report of conditions observed upon arrival, she did not properly evaluate the scene so as to develop a basic strategy for implementation of safe and effective firefighting tactics. Had the officer visually evaluated the Charlie side of the building, the advanced fire conditions may have been noted, and that the lower level fire area was accessible by means of an exterior entry door for a more direct fire attack from the interior unburned side.
This means that firefighters enter a building and position the attack hose line between the fire and the uninvolved portions of the building. This direction of fire attack is preferred because it is likely to contain the fire, protect occupants, and push heat and gases out of the building if ventilation has been performed. On the other hand, danger increases significantly when attacking from the unburned side and is not always practical based on fire location, intensity, and building construction.
It cannot be conclusively known as to why Capt. Broxterman and Ffr. Schira proceeded into the area of the building that eventually collapsed resulting in their deaths. The investigation committee has concluded that the most probable explanation is that E102′s three-person interior team was successful in advancing their uncharged attack hose line into the basement recreation room area; reaching a point approximately 10 to15-feet from the bottom of the basement stairway as shown in the Incident Overview chapter. Once the team reached this area, it was realized they did not have sufficient hose line to continue advancing towards the seat of the fire. The team’s third member (Ffr. #2) reversed his travel and made his way back to the exterior of the building to advance additional hose line. As the team of two waited for additional hose line to be stretched and the hose line to be charged by the pump operator, the interior conditions rapidly deteriorated to a stage that it became untenable for them to hold their position.
The team evacuated back-up the stairway without following the hose line, which by all indications was tight up against the stairway wall and tightly wrapped around the stairway door entry. Once at the top of the stairway, one of the two deceased, if not both were likely in some form of distress; became disoriented and proceeded into the family room in a direction opposite the route of travel from which they entered the building. As the two moved across the family room floor, the flooring system collapsed into the utility room area of the basement. When the third team member re-entered the building, he was unable to locate the other two members.
The inability of Ffr. #2 to locate his team and the loss of radio communications contact with the interior team prompted the IC to declare a Mayday and activation of the RATs. This incident resulted in tragedy primarily due to the concealment of several burned-through floor joists under the carpet covered flooring system, which was nearly impossible to recognize due to heavy smoke conditions inside the burning building.
The following factors are believed to have directly contributed to the deaths that occurred in this incident:
Although the aforementioned factors are believed to have directly contributed to the deaths reported here, they might have been prevented if:
The Colerain Township (OH) Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services’s report examined the events of April 4th, 2008 with the benefit of hindsight, while seeking to be independent, impartial, and thorough. From the beginning, Colerain Fire & EMS has been committed to share our findings with others in the hope that it may prevent another such event.
The deaths of Captain Robin M. Broxterman and Firefighter Brian Schira had a profound loss not only to their parents, family and this organization, but also to the larger fire service community. In order to prevent these tragic losses in the future, we must first understand how and why our sister and brother firefighters died. We must learn from their incident and take that knowledge forward. If it was possible, what would these firefighters tell us today that might prevent a similar death of a firefighter in the future? What would they want us as firefighters, company officers and chief officers to know about the circumstances that lead to their deaths and the things we (and they) might have done to alter the most tragic of outcomes?
From the information that was made available for review, it was evident that these two individuals were well-loved in life, and greatly missed in death. Every line of duty death of a firefighter in the United States is significant. This investigative analysis document is dedicated to Captain Broxterman and Firefighter Schira, their families, friends and the community whose lives were forever changed. In working to improve the health and safety of all United States firefighters, we have much to learn from the supreme sacrifice of these two individuals, who they were in life and in death. We honor their memories.
The NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study; Titled- Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiements was issued this morning. A copy of the report is attached. The report is also available for download at the NIST, HERE
Service expectations placed on the fire service, including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), response to natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, and acts of terrorism, have steadily increased. However, local decision-makers are challenged to balance these community service expectations with finite resources without a solid technical foundation for evaluating the impact of staffing and deployment decisions on the safety of the public and firefighters. For the first time, this study investigates the effect of varying crew size, first apparatus arrival time, and response time on firefighter safety, overall task completion, and interior residential tenability using realistic residential fires.
This study is also unique because of the array of stakeholders and the caliber of technical experts involved. Additionally, the structure used in the field experiments included customized instrumentation; all related industry standards were followed; and robust research methods were used. The results and conclusions will directly inform the NPFA 1710 Technical Committee, who is responsible for developing consensus industry deployment standards.
This report presents the results of more than 60 laboratory and residential fireground experiments designed to quantify the effects of various fire department deployment configurations on the most common type of fire—a low hazard residential structure fire. For the fireground experiments, a 2,000 sq ft (186 m2), two-story residential structure was designed and built at the Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville, MD. Fire crews from Montgomery County, MD and Fairfax County.
A were deployed in response to live fires within this facility. In addition to systematically controlling for the arrival times of the first and subsequent fire apparatus, crew size was varied to consider two-, three-, four-, and five-person staffing. Each deployment performed a series of 22 tasks that were timed, while the thermal and toxic environment inside the structure was measured. Additional experiments with larger fuel loads as well as fire modeling produced additional insight. Report results quantify the effectiveness of crew size, first-due engine arrival time, and apparatus arrival stagger on the duration and time to completion of the key 22 fireground tasks and the effect on occupant and firefighter safety.
We will review the report findings and provide insights over the upcoming weekend.
Addition project information and insights, HERE
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is scheduled to issue the results of a multi-institutional landmark national study on the effects of firefighter staffing levels and crew arrival times on residential firefighting operations. This landmark report will provide scientific data that will help inform fire chiefs and public officials in making decisions on firefighting budgets, crew sizes and placement of fire stations. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and will be released Wednesday April 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C., before the start of the annual Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) meeting. Speakers will include principal investigators from NIST, the U.S. Fire Administrator, representatives from NFPA, IAFC, IAFF, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs, CFAI, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The Press Event will take place at the Washington Hilton, Jefferson East (Concourse Level) 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW. Washington, D.C. at 9:00 a.m. EDT
The significance of this much awaited study is certain to provide critical data and benchmarks that will influence operational deployment, firefighter safety and strategic and tactical considerations related to combat fire suppression. I recall a series of studies and evolutions that were last dome in the mid-1980’s that looked at cursory functional deployment considerations related to engine company efficiency for six, five, four and three personnel staffed units.
The NIST Firefighter Safety and Deployment Study is a multi-year project, being conducted jointly by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), whose purpose is to establish a technical basis for risk evaluation and deployment of resources by local fire departments and create tools the departments can use to better assess the risks and hazards in their communities; plan adequate resource deployment to respond to and mitigate emergency events; and measure their effectiveness in responding to and handling events.
The first two phases of the study were to establish a technical basis for risk evaluation and deployment of resources by local fire departments and to create tools fire departments can use to better assess the risks and hazards in their communities. This would allow the Fire Department to plan adequate resource deployment to respond to and mitigate emergency events. The final phase of the NIST study will assist departments to measure their effectiveness in responding to and handling events.
Within the past fifteen years, studies have advanced in the sophistication of their methods but nonetheless have continued to support the finding that crew size per piece of apparatus clearly affects the effectiveness and safety of fire department personnel during emergency response and fire suppression. In an effort to supplement the scientific evidence available, the intent of this study was to determine how well the fire service decision makers match resources to risk and what factors are important in making better decisions about these matches in the future recognizing that decisions must be made in light of available funding in the community and the level of service the community expects.
The overall goal is to reduce firefighter injury and death by making better decisions about resource deployment in a risk filled environment. The study is delineated into three phases.
Based on analysis of data collected in phase I, investigators will address three outcomes; 1) firefighter injury and death, 2) civilian injury and death; and 3) economic impact. They will work to identify the most important factors in determining appropriate deployment to varied levels of adverse risk events occurring in a community. It is their hope to use those data to program a predictive model to be converted into software.
We’ll issue and update this post with the latest information as it’s released Wednesday.
Progress Reports Issued
A series of program progress reports were issued and are available from the following links;
Other related links for further insights;
Fire Fighter LODD after Being Trapped in a Roof Collapse During Overhaul of a Vacant/Abandoned Building. NIOSH recently published a report on a 2008 LODD that occurred in a vacant/ abandoned building. NIOSH Report F2008-0037. The full report is available HERE. Let’s look at some insights and overviews of that report.
On November 15, 2008, a 38-year-old male fire fighter died after being crushed by a roof collapse in a vacant/abandoned building. Fire fighters initially used a defensive fire attack to extinguish much of the fire showing from the second-floor windows on arrival. After the initial knockdown, fire crews entered the second floor to perform overhaul operations. During overhaul, the roof collapsed with several fire fighters still inside, on the second floor. The victim and two other fire fighters were trapped under a section of the roof. Crews were able to rescue two fire fighters (who self-extricated), but could not immediately find the victim. After cutting through roofing materials, the victim was located by fire fighters, unconscious and unresponsive.
He was removed from the structure and transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include: dilapidated building conditions, incendiary fire originating in the unprotected structural roof members, inadequate risk-versus-gain analysis prior to committing to interior operations involving a vacant/abandoned structure, inadequate accountability system, lack of a safety officer, an inadequate maintenance program for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and a poorly maintained and likely inoperable personal alert safety systems (PASS), ineffective strategies for the prevention of and the remediation of vacant/abandoned structures and arson prevention.
Inherent Construction Issues
This incident occurred in a vacant unsecured residential structure which had experienced a previous fire approximately one year prior to this incident. During interviews with NIOSH investigators, fire fighters reported large amounts of fire showing from all windows on the second floor on arrival. Fire fighters also reported that the roof had burned through on the Side B/C and one fire fighter reported he could see the sky while ascending the interior stairs to perform overhaul. It is not known if the roof conditions were communicated to the incident commander before fire fighters were assigned to operate on the roof. The fire fighters were unaware of the conditions such as the exposed roof assembly, possible removal of rafter connectors (collar beams), and the use of a flammable liquid in the structural members of the roof and second floor attic area. The roof assembly (being unprotected) was directly involved as part of the fuel in this fire.
The large dormer on the A-side presents an identifiable inherent risk factor (due to the potential for structural compromise or failure) when found on 1.5 story bungalow style residential structure due to the integral manner in which the dormer structure, i.e., roof rafters, dormer framing and roofing boards along with the functionality of the ridge beam must function in order to retain structural integrity under fire conditions. The dormer may be actually supported at the upper end directly onto the roofing boards, which in turn are supported by the perpendicular roof rafters. This creates a potential area for pronounced degradation when exposed to direct or indirect flame impingement creating an area prone to early structural compromise and eventual failure.
Although the initial defensive strategy in fighting the fire was successful in knocking down the fire, the incident commander may have benefited from a continuous risk-versus-gain analysis before allowing crews to operate on interior during overhaul. The first arriving officer reported that he performed a walk around prior to allowing crews to enter the structure and the building appeared intact, but he would not have known of the alterations to the interior roof system and the removal of critical structural members. Interior condition and roof condition reports might have revealed the burned-through area of the roof, and tactics could have been altered to keep fire fighters off the roof and out of the structure.
Report Recommendations included;
Additionally, municipalities and local authorities having jurisdiction should:
Although there is no evidence that the following recommendations could have prevented this fatality, NIOSH investigators recommend that fire departments:
Vacant or Unoccupied: Tactical Risk and Safety
I’ve commented on this subject a few times. We seem to do a lot of things at times out of common practice and repetition, you know; “We’ve always done it that way….” syndrome. There’s a resonating theme that is making its way around the fire service dealing with going to a defensive tactical posture at vacant or unoccupied structure fires.
This command posture leads to limiting interior operating engagement, while promoting a high degree of risk management. With that being said, there are also plenty of opinions on these types of policies as such, since this type of tactical effort may be contrary to the local “culture and traditions” of the responding agencies and may be a hard pill to swallow, since we’re in the job of “ fighting ALL fires..” Please refresh your memories on a past post on Tactical Entertainment HERE and HERE
Here are some basic definitions to keep us all on the same playing field;
Vacant; refers to a building that is not currently in use, but which could be used in the future. The term “vacant” could apply to a property that is for sale or rent, undergoing renovations, or empty of contents in the period between the departure of one tenant and the arrival of another tenant. A vacant building has inherent property value, even though it does not contain valuable contents or human occupants.
Unoccupied; generally refers to a building that is not occupied by any persons at the time an incident occurs. An unoccupied building could be used by a business that is temporarily closed (i.e. overnight or for a weekend). The term unoccupied could also apply to a building that is routinely or periodically occupied; however the occupants are not present at the time an incident occurs. A residential structure could be temporarily unoccupied because the residents are at work or on vacation. A building that is temporarily unoccupied has inherent property value as well as valuable contents.
Here’s a formulative question;
When we look at various buildings and occupancies, past operational experiences; those that were successful, and those that were not, give us experiences that define and determine how we access, react and expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future. Naturalistic (or recognition-primed) decision-making forms much of this basis.
We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a given duration of time, that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system. That may be true for conventional or legacy structures, but what about modern construction and engineered structural systems? Same expectations?…….
What do you think?
Take at look the at this residential fire and interior attack that injured a number of Maryland Firefighters HERE
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. 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. NIOSH Report HERE. NIST References HERE
Take the time to remember FDNY Lt. Joseph Cavaleiri, FF Christopher Bopp and Firefighter James Bohan from Ladder 170