Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fourteen Minutes to Mayday

Fourteen Minutes to Mayday
On April 04, 2008, a 37-year-old female career captain and a 29-year-old male part-time fire fighter were fatally injured when a section of floor collapsed and trapped them in the basement during a fire at a residential structure. At 0611 hours, an automatic alarm dispatched the fire department. Dispatch upgraded the alarm to a working structure fire 9 minutes later. At 0623 hours, the victims’ engine was the first to arrive on scene. The homeowner met the engine crew and stated that the fire was in the basement and everyone was out.

With moderate smoke showing, the captain and the fire fighter donned their self-contained breathing apparatus and entered the residence through the opened front door with a 1¾” hoseline. A second fire fighter joined the captain and fire fighter at the basement stairs doorway. After the captain called for water several times, the line was charged and both fire fighters took the hoseline to the bottom of the stairs but needed additional hoseline to advance. The second fire fighter went back up the stairs to pull more hose at the front door. As he returned to the basement stairway, he saw the captain at the top of the stairs, trying to use her radio and telling him to get out. A captain from the second arriving engine noticed the smoke getting black, heavy, and pushing out the front door and requested the incident commander (IC) to evacuate the interior crew.

The second fire fighter exited the structure alone. The IC made several attempts to contact the interior crew with no response. At 0637 hours, the IC sent out a “Mayday.” A rapid intervention team was activated and followed the hoseline through the front door and down to the basement. Returning to the first floor, they noticed a collapsed section of floor and went to investigate the debris in that area of the basement.

At 0708 hours, the captain was found near a corner of the basement. At 0729 hours, after removing debris from around the captain, the other fire fighter was located underneath her and some additional debris. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Key contributing factors identified included;
  • the initial 360-degree size-up was incomplete,
  • likely disorientation of victims effecting key survival skills,
  • radio communication problems,
  • well-involved basement fire before the department’s arrival, and
  • potential fire growth from natural gas utilities.
Spend some time today discussing operational issues affecting tactical deployment for basement fires, or fires in areas with limited access and initial operations above the fire. Think about fire dynamics, fire behavior, building construction; features and systms, structural stability and the 360 Assessment.

Take the time to conduct an appropriate 360 degree risk assessement of a structure and perform the necessary structural triage of the occupancy, assess the observations and communications and integrate these into a safe and well define incident action plans (IAP), that also take into account the dynamics of the evolving incident, time considerations and situational awareness.

Aditional References; HERE , HERE and HERE
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  1. It is so important that Chief Officers recognize the need to develop and implement R.I.T or R.I.C. operating procedures and guidelines. These should be accompanied by MAYDAY procedures and guidelines that are not only implemented but trained on regularly. The events that led up to this tragedy leave no doubt that we need to keep cultivating a culture of “Safety”, in the fire service. As I participate in different blogs and websites, I run in to so many old and new firefighters who bash and frown on anyone who advocates safety. Our job isn’t to die. Our job is to save savable lives and property.

  2. they entered with an uncharged line why??
    and with all out why the interior attack??

  3. Why Interior Attack?? Most of the Fire Departments I know of mention the words "Saving Property" in the mission statement. Does Yours??

  4. I saw from the article they had water before they descended the stairs to the basement. It seems the situation appeared to them to be routine. However, from the article, there weren't enough personnel on the scene to conduct an aggressive attack and the captain realized the firefighter she was with was in trouble in the basement and tragically stayed in trying to save him. What a sad day. May they rest in peace

  5. I'm wondering if it was a daylight basement or a true cellar. If was a cellar then I can see stretching down the interior stair...only practical way to get to the fire. However, if it was a daylight basement with an exterior door or windows why stretch over the fire? I'm not trying to arm chair QB...just wondering.

  6. That is why they stated the need for a 360 on all fires if poss.

  7. Just did a radio interoperability drill and we are still not "talking" together. Why is this such a problem? RADIOs are our lifelines. Training on how to properly use radios needs to be added to the RIT and MayDay training.

  8. being a firefighter is a risky job, i salute to those who risk their life to save properties and lives..

  9. being a firefighter is a risky job, i salute to those who risk their life to save properties and lives..


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