National Firefighter Near Miss Featured Report: Thrown under the carpet

Fires in warehouse occupancies (aka: high hazard) are a rare occurrence for most firefighters. Warehouse fires have low frequency and high severity and therefore many fire departments employ the same tactics they do for their high frequency fire events such as residential structure fires. This week’s featured report provides a brief account of an incident that closely mirrors a fatality that occurred several years earlier. We are unsure if the incident that occurs in this week’s featured report and the fatality that occurred years earlier are connected. What we do know is a low frequency and high severity event occurred in a high hazard occupancy which provides several critical lessons in a few words.

“We were at a carpet warehouse trying to make entry into a pole barn type structure. On a scale of 10, this incident was shaping up to be about a 5. When all of the sudden, someone hollers “it’s falling”. When I heard this, I pivoted and took about a half step when carpet and wall buried me and others. The carpet and wall pinned me…”

The carpet warehouse in this report and other warehouses store rolled, unsecured stock which poses an ominous, irreversible threat to firefighters. These occupancies often mask the severity of the fire inside the building due to the large ceilings, and limited visibility created by the rolls of stored stock. Seemingly insignificant signs (little smoke showing, no fire evident, hazes of smoke at the ceiling level) belie significant working fires in the structure. Once you have read the entire account CLICK HERE, consider the following:

1. How many “high hazard” occupancies can you identify in your first due response area?
2. When did you last conduct a walk-thru of warehouse/storage areas in your area?
3. Does your department have strategies, SOPs and pre-plans in place for handling large area buildings?
4. How do you maintain awareness of fire conditions in high ceiling occupancies?
5. Under what conditions should personnel be committed to areas where unsecured, rolled stock is being stored?

Have a near miss in a large, undivided building (e.g., warehouse)? Submit a report to today to get everyone out of the building safely.