Changes Seen in Ottawa (Canada) Fire Services After Near-Deadly Fire

A recent report from the Ottawa Citizen (http://bit.ly/xhCCaj) describes how the Ottawa (Canada) Fire Services changed after the 2007 Forward Ave. Fire, which nearly killed two groups of firefighters.

Five Ottawa firefighters who responded to the Forward Avenue Fire on February 12, 2007, sustained critical injuries. As recounted in a Fire Engineering article by IAFF Local 162 President Peter Kennedy, the midday fire involved a four-story, multi-unit row house. Firefighters managed to rescue one occupant who was leaning out a window, but crew members soon found themselves alternately stranded and lost in the building and ended up having to jump for their lives.

The Ottawa Citizen report recounts many of the things that went wrong on the fireground that day, namely

  • communications systems breaking down;
  • missed radio transmissions;
  • equipment malfunctioning or mishandling;
  • failure of firefighter accountability system; and
  • firefighters losing situational awareness.

The progress seen in the Ottawa Fire Services after this near miss was attributed to a 100-page report on the fireground failures that day, spurred by firefighters, among them Captain Peter McBride, host of the Internationally Speaking program on Fire Engineering Talk Radio.

Among the finding of the report were

  • The fire quickly grew and outpaced the allocated resources;
  • Radio messages became "disjointed";
  • Firefighters relied on outdated tactics that did not reflect a modern understanding of fire behavior;
  • Firefighters lacked a bail-out system, such as the one now-standard in the FDNY after the "Black Sunday" fire;
  • Firefighters were unfamiliar with vent-enter-search (VES);

A full copy of the report is available HERE (PDF).

The news report on the changes goes on to tout Ottawa FIRE 2010, an event organized to discuss the issues raised by the Forward Ave. event.

Read more about the changes effected by the Forward Ave. report at http://bit.ly/xhCCaj.

For more information on OttawaFire2010, the symposium, and the Forward Ave. report, visit http://www.ottawafirefighters.org/ottawafire2010/.

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