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Firefighter Separated from Hoseline Dies

Over the past few years I continue to read of firefighters, who for some reason or another have managed to separate themselves from the rest of their crew, usually a hoseline attack crew, and become disoriented, trapped, and eventually running out of air and succumbing within the structure. A few firefighters caught in these conditions have managed to be rescued by RIT firefighters and revived. Why do these firefighters leave the safety of their crew? How do they leave the security of the crew without the other crew members knowing they have left? Many times the crew has withdrawn from the structure before they realize a member is missing. Is there no communication among the crew? One can only wonder as to the answers.

They are supposed to be a team following some pretty simple operating procedures, stay together! They should be maintaining visual, vocal, or physical contact with each other at all times, you know, hanging onto each other’s coattail while keeping up the chatter. Staying alert to their surroundings and any changing fire conditions that may impact their safety while monitoring the radio are also required. If for any reason a team member has to leave, the entire team must exit, following the hoseline back out. If it is a Mayday situation, a Mayday should be called over the radio and department procedures for a Mayday should be initiated by the incident commander and followed. Sounds simple, yet firefighters continue to die in similar circumstances as in the following report.

On April 15, 2016 NIOSH released the following FF Fatality report: “On May 8, 2013, a 29-year-old male career probationary fire fighter died after running out of air and being trapped by a roof collapse in a commercial strip mall fire. The fire fighter was one of three fire fighters who had stretched a 1½-inch hoseline from Side A into a commercial strip mall fire. The hose team had stretched deep into the structure under high heat and heavy smoke conditions and was unsuccessful in locating the seat of the fire. The hose team decided to exit the structure. During the exit, the fire fighter became separated from the other two crew members. The incident commander saw the two members of the hose team exit on Side A and called over the radio for the fire fighter. The fire fighter acknowledged the incident commander and gave his location in the rear of the structure. The fire fighter later gave a radio transmission that he was out of air. A rapid intervention team was activated but was unable to locate him before a flashover occurred and the roof collapsed. He was later recovered and pronounced dead on the scene.”

The NIOSH Report lists the following contributing factors and key recommendations: risk assessment, communications, crew integrity, firefighter ran out of air in an IDLH atmosphere, staffing and deployment, arson fire in a commercial structure, and lack of automatic fire sprinklers. There also is an extensive list of recommendations that are worthy of review.

I include the following from the report as it contains important information relevant to firefighting in modern commercial buildings.

“Adaptive Fireground Management Safety Considerations
Firefighting in commercial buildings and occupancies demands alternate tactical engagement and management that differentiate from residential deployment and operations. Building features and systems and complexities create very distinct and defined incident action parameters that required commanders, officers and firefighters to implement discrete strategies, tactics and awareness that are commonly resource driven, complex, concurrent and high risk.

Commercial building fires and incidents require specific training, skill sets, and experience and risk management protocols. Today’s fireground demands, challenges and risks are less forgiving than in the past, leave little to no margin for error and when those errors and omissions manifest themselves-may be very unforgiving in their resulting severity and magnitude. This then requires significant adaptability in the identification, selection of strategic, tactical and task level actions that demand critical thinking skills, based on fluid incident and building assessment and evaluation for conditions.

The importance of implementing Tactical Discipline, Tactical Patience and Adaptive Fireground Management is formative on today’s fireground and built upon an established platform of building knowledge, an understanding of the predictability of the building’s performance under fire conditions and the integration of critical thinking skills that aligns with the unique given conditions of an incident scene and structural fire in a building.

Firefighting continues to be driven by long established practices and protocols that have a basis on expected building or fire performance and behaviors. These long held beliefs and methodologies have had new perspectives applied based on on-going research, development and emerging practices that suggest adaptive and alternatives methods, practices and protocols that are changing the rules of engagement.

First-due company operations are influenced by a number of parameters and factors; some deliberate and dictated, others prescribed and prearranged and yet others subjective, biased, predisposed or at times accidental, casual and emotional. The connotations and implications are significant and can be characteristic of successful or detrimental operations.

Buildings and occupancies when involved in a structure fire will continue to require the suppression and rescue engagement and intervention of fire department resources and staffing; evolving into an art and science of firefighting that demands greater command and company officer skill sets and understanding of building parameters and fire dynamics.”

The complete NIOSH report can be downloaded at:

Till next time, stay safe and God Bless!

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Henry CampbellSenior Correspondent

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