Line of Duty Death
What Went Wrong
A career firefighter was killed while conducting a rescue mission at an apartment complex after the fourth fire alarm, he died while doing so. The career firefighter was with his partner when this happened. The two firefighters were knocking on the doors of the apartments as they checked for the victims who could be trapped within them. The career firefighter was in the hallway of the first floor while his partner was in a small vestibule at the entrance of one of the apartments when the building collapsed. The second-floor hallway and possibly the third-floor hallways collapsed onto the first-floor hallways. Since the victim was in the hallway, he was killed in the accident. His partner was trapped in the inset vestibules of the doorway where he was knocking.
Warning Signs that Led Up to the Event
The sprinkler system was not working at the point of origin of the fire. This is an indication that the fire was allowed to spread and intensify. At the time of the fire, a building maintenance worker was attempting to fix a water leak in the building. As a result, he had closed off the main water supply which the sprinklers depended on as their sole source of water supply. When the firefighters get in, they may underestimate the intensity of the flame. They may conclude that since the house is equipped with sprinklers, the fire may not be as hot and spread as it seems. This type of misappropriation can be deadly. Essentially it results in an underestimation of the situation.
Wind speeds were between 18-20 miles an hour. This, however, minor statement, contributes to the raging flames. It fed oxygen to the fire which made it hot enough to rapidly burn through the supporting structures of the apartment complex. This may seem minor but is always a contributing factor to a fire, especially an open fire such as this one in the case.
An outdated building structure due to wear and tear. The building was constructed in the year 1980. As a matter of fact, it was undergoing a reinforcement reconstruction. Essentially, the hallways were being upgraded and strengthened so as to meet the current demand on the building it terms of capacity in light of its age. Since the hallway had not been completed, it was still worn out due to the wear and tear over the years. As such, it was easily weakened by the heat from the fire. Last but not least, the building used lightweight structures for support.
The Incident command was not clear. The deputy chief arrived later and found no chief officer at the command post. Additionally, he found that the command board was not complete. He then assigned the battalion chiefs their divisions. These were aspects that should have been done much earlier. The roles should have been established before the firemen left the fire station.
Communication was poor at some points. An example is the CT4 driver who was left in the parking lot without whatever form of communication. This type of approach is dangerous. Additionally, the CT4 driver was a backup driver who helped in driving only once or twice a month. This makes effective communication exceedingly relevant.
Poor organization and tactics on sight were a contributing factor. A clear example of this is when there was confusion as to where the command post was. There was one set up on side A and a new one was introduced on side C. this caused confusion as the two were not established as a planned strategy but as a redundancy that happened by mistake. This shows that there was no clear planning and rehearsal on the part of the firefighters.
Inadequate size up of the fire was a contributing factor as well. The only size up was done briefly as the fire truck was driving to the command post. As a matter of fact, the Incident Officer had to conduct a 360-degree size upon arrival. This was several minutes after the first response team arrived on site.
What Could Have Been Done To Prevent The Occurrence?
A quick rehearsal beforehand at the fire station would have helped. This may seem time wasting but is absolutely necessary. It prepares the firemen and assigns them their roles. When they arrive on the field, confusion is minimized and activities flow in harmony.
Communication should have been improved. There must be constant communication among everyone on site. This includes the firemen, the incident commanders, and the surrounding population. Everyone must play their role. This is made seamless when everyone is communicated to their role.
Initial size ups are mandatory. The fire department must conduct these size ups to determine the scale of the fire. It is reckless to send officers in a building that has not been well sized up. As a matter of fact, it is irresponsible.
The fire department must ensure that everyone is in the correct position prior to fighting a fire. Every officer must be stationed where he was predesigned to be stationed. This makes for a smooth process that reduces the risks associated with bad communication and poor planning.
The fire department must train its officers in areas of situational awareness. The officers must be trained in areas that pertain to how to escape close calls such as the one in this accident. For example, the firefighter could be trained not to run in case of structure collapse. It would be safer to find the nearest shelter or shield that is structurally strong. This is what helped spare the assistant firefighters life. As an extension, the fire department should train the firefighters in the various factors that constitute risks and hazards in a case of structural collapse.
The municipalities must be vigilant in enforcing building codes and standards. To this end, they must regularly inspect buildings to ensure that they are up to date. They must check the sprinkler systems to ensure that they are working check the integrity of the buildings and ensure that each building has its schematics well done.
The fire department must see to it that the predestinated roles are staffed adequately on site. This avoids shortcomings and late execution of critical functions such as surveying the fire area