NIOSH Releases Report on NY Live Burn Training Fatality Investigation

Washington, D.C. - Washington, D.C. - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released its report on the September 25, 2001 death of a NY State volunteer firefighter who died during a live burn training exercise. The report makes several recommendations to fire departments to minimize the risk of similar occurrences. This incident also resulted in the conviction of an assistant chief with the fire company for criminally negligent homicide.

On September 25, 2001, a 19-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (the victim) died and two male volunteer fire fighters (Fire Fighter #1 and Fire Fighter #2) were injured during a multi-agency, live-burn training session. The victim and Fire Fighter #1 were playing the role of fire fighters who had become trapped on the second-level of the structure. The training became reality when the fire was started and progressed up the stairwell, accelerated by a foam mattress that was ignited on the first floor. Fire Fighter #1 and the victim were recovered from the second-level front bedroom where they had been placed for the training. Fire Fighter #2 jumped from a second-level window in the rear bedroom. The victim was unresponsive when removed from the structure. Advanced life saving procedures were initiated on the victim en route to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Fire Fighter #1 and Fire Fighter #2 suffered severe burns and were airlifted to an area burn unit.

NIOSH investigators concluded that to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:

  • ensure that no one plays the role of victim inside the structure during live-burn training;
  • ensure that a certified instructor is in charge of the live-burn training and that a separate safety officer is appointed and has the authority to intervene and control any aspect of the operation;
  • ensure that only one training fire is lit at a time by a designated ignition officer and that a charged hoseline is present while igniting the fire;
  • ensure that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are developed and followed;
  • ensure that all fire fighters participating in live-burn training have achieved a minimum level of basic training;
  • ensure that before conducting live-burn training, a preburn briefing session is conducted and an evacuation plan and signal are established for all participants;
  • ensure that fires used for live-burn training are not located in any designated exit paths; and
  • ensure that the fuels used in the live-burn training evolutions have known burning characteristics and the structure is inspected for possible environmental hazards.
Additionally, states should develop a permitting procedure for live-burn training to be conducted at acquired structures. States should ensure that all the requirements of NFPA 1403 have been met before issuing the permit.

The complete NIOSH report can be found on NIOSH's Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face200138.html.

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