The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released its report on the death of Westland (MI) Firefighter Brian Woehlke, who was killed while responding to a strip mall fire in 2013.
On May 8, 2013, a 29-year-old male career probationary firefighter died after running out of air and being trapped by a roof collapse in a commercial strip mall fire. The firefighter was one of three who had stretched a 1½-inch hoseline from Side A into a commercial strip mall fire. The hose team had stretched deep into the structure under high heat and heavy smoke conditions and was unsuccessful in locating the seat of the fire. The hose team decided to exit the structure. During the exit, the firefighter became separated from the other two crew members. The incident commander saw the two members of the hose team exit on Side A and called over the radio for the fire fighter. The firefighter acknowledged the incident commander and gave his location in the rear of the structure. The firefighter later gave a radio transmission that he was out of air. A rapid intervention team was activated but was unable to locate him before a flashover occurred and the roof collapsed. He was later recovered and pronounced dead on the scene.
Among the contributing factors, NIOSH listed:
- Risk assessment
- Crew integrity
- Fire fighter ran out of air in an IDLH atmosphere
- Staffing and deployment
- Arson fire in a commercial structure
- Lack of automatic fire sprinklers
The key recommendations:
- Fire departments should ensure that an initial risk assessment is performed and continuous risk assessment is performed throughout the incident and the strategy and tactics match the conditions encountered.
- Fire departments should ensure that fire ighters are trained to understand the influence of building design and construction on structural collapse.
- Firefighters and officers should ensure critical benchmarks, such as progress or lack of progress, are communicated to the incident commander and that positive communication discipline are used.
- Emergency fireground conditions should be communicated and acknowledged on the fireground and radio discipline maintained.
- Fire departments should ensure that crew integrity is maintained during fire suppression operations.
- Fire departments should ensure adequate staffing and deployment of resources based on the community’s risk assessment.
- Fire departments should ensure that firefighters and officers are properly trained in air management.
- Fire departments should ensure that firefighters are properly trained in out-of-air SCBA emergencies and SCBA repetitive skills training.
- Fire departments should ensure firefighters are properly trained in Mayday procedures and survival techniques.
- Fire departments should ensure that firefighters are trained in situational awareness, personal safety, and accountability.
- Code-setting organizations and municipalities should consider requiring the use of sprinkler systems in commercial structures.
The full report can be read as a PDF HERE.