The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released a report on the death of a Texas firefighter who was killed when he fell through the roof and became trapped in the attic while conducting ventilation at a structure fire.
On August 14, 2011, a 41-year-old career lieutenant died after falling through a roof and being trapped in an attic. The lieutenant was part of a two-man crew attempting to perform vertical ventilation of a two story multi-family apartment complex. The fire department had responded to multiple fires over the years at this apartment complex. The roof decking material was over 30 years old and would not meet the current building code. The fire on the first floor was quickly brought under control but had spread into the attic along the exterior wall and through the eaves. The fire had compromised the structural integrity of the roof decking material prior to the crew operating on the roof. When the lieutenant crossed over the peak of the roof to ventilate above the fire, he fell through the weakened roof and into the attic. His legs went through the ceiling of the second floor apartment while his body remained in the attic. He was wearing his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) but was not wearing his face piece and was overcome by the products of combustion. He was rescued by crews operating at the scene and transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
The report cited several contributing factors in this line-of-duty death:
- Hazard assessment/recognition
- Structural roof component-damage from previous fire
- PPE use
- Non-sprinkled building.
Among the recommendations NIOSH made to prevent such deaths were:
- ensuring that the incident commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene as outlined in NFPA 1500 before beginning fire fighting operations and continually evaluates the conditions to determine if operations should become defensive
- ensuring that the incident commander establishes a command post, maintains the role of director of fireground operations, does not pass command to an officer not on scene, and does not become involved in firefighting operations
- enforcing existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for structural fire fighting, including the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while conducting roof ventilation operations
- ensuring that a rapid intervention team (RIT) is established and available to immediately respond to emergency rescue incidents
The entirety of the report can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face201120.html.
For some more firefighter training articles on vertical ventilation, consider Vertical Ventilation and Firefighting: Inside the UL Tests, Drill of the Week: Vertical Ventilation , Primary Ventilation : A Review, and Ventilation Operations on Lightweight Roofs: A Viable Operation?.