A recently released report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) looked at the death of two firefighters after an explosion during a 2011 coal storage silo fire in South Dakota.
On September 15, 2011 a 20-year-old male, and a 22-year-old male, both volunteer firefighters, were killed while attempting to extinguish a fire in a coal storage silo. After removing approximately 80 of the 100 tons of coal inside the silo, the two victims attempted to extinguish the fire by applying water through an access hatch on top of the 50-foot silo. An explosion occurred, destroying the silo and killing the two victims. A third firefighter working inside the structure at the base of the silo was seriously injured.
The report listed several factors that contributed to the deadly incident, including the silo design, the unique explosive characteristics of coal, and firefighting tactics for silo fires.
The report also made a number of key recommendations:
- Fire departments should review, revise and enforce standard operating guidelines (SOGs) for structural firefighting that address silos containing combustible particles
- Fire departments should train officers and firefighters on the hazards associated with different types of silos and the appropriate firefighting tactics including any special hazards posed by the silo contents
- Fire departments should ensure that pre-emergency planning is completed for all types of silos located within fire department jurisdictions.
Additionally, governing municipalities, manufacturers, and designers of coal storage silos should:
- consider requiring that placards with hazard warnings and appropriate firefighting guidelines be placed on silos
- ensure that silos are constructed so that the contents flow without becoming trapped (stagnant) and to limit the introduction of air into the silo.
You can read the entire report at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face201122.html.