During a 2006 fire in a “dollar store” in the Bronx, Fire Department of New York (FDNY) Lieutenant Howard Carpluk and Probationary Firefighter Michael Reilly died in the line of duty. Below is an excerpt from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report on the fire.
In honor of Carpluk’s actions, he was posthumously awarded the Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award at FDIC 2007. He was cited for his selflessness in attempting to save the life of Probationary Firefighter Michael Reilly, who had been out of the Fire Academy for six weeks. Carpluk, the probationary firefighter, and firefighters from two other companies had fallen through the floor at a taxpayer store fire. Despite being seriously injured and trapped up to his chest in debris, Carpluk struggled to direct his and rescuers’ efforts to locating and removing the probationary firefighter before he, himself, was removed from the debris. After rescuers finally freed his arms from the debris, Carpluk began to dig beneath his body with his hands in an attempt to find his probationary firefighter, jeopardizing his chances of survival. Debris compressed his chest and diaphragm and restricted his intake of oxygen. He became exhausted and fell unconscious. After the removal of Carpluk’s body from the debris, rescuers located the lifeless body of Reilly, which had been under Carpluk’s body.
On August 27, 2006, a 43-year-old male career Lieutenant (victim #1) and a 25-year-old male fire fighter (victim #2) died after the floor they were operating on collapsed at a commercial structure fire. At approximately 1230 hours, crews were dispatched to a fire. The victims’ engine was dispatched at 1236 hours as an additional unit alarm and arrived on the scene at approximately 1240 hours. At approximately 1251 hours, victim #1, victim #2 and fire fighter #1 advanced a 2 ½-inch hand line through the front of the structure and down an aisle toward the rear of the store. The fire was located in the rear interior of the structure (discount store) that sold a variety of numerous small household commodity items. Approximately three minutes later, the structural members supporting the floor directly below the victims failed. The V-shaped collapse of the floor caused victim #1 and victim #2 to fall into the basement and shelving stocked with merchandise to fall in on top of them. Multiple MAYDAYs were transmitted and the fire fighter assist and search team (FAST) was deployed to the front of the structure where they assisted in the rescue of numerous members who had been operating in the interior of the structure at the time of the collapse. Battalion Chief #1, Lieutenant #1 and fire fighter #1 were freed from the debris. At approximately 1415 hours, victim #1 was removed from the debris in the basement and transported to the hospital. He died the next day as a result of his injuries. At approximately 1435 hours, victim #2 was removed from the basement and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased as a result of his injuries.
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
- consider the possibility of a substandard structure when building information is not available from pre-incident plans
- consider the live load of water on the structure and go defensive when water load potentially compromises the structural integrity
Additionally, municipalities should:
- explore means of coordinating information sharing between building and fire departments to increase safety for fire fighters and civilians
- consider conducting inspections on all commercial structures where a change of occupancy has occurred or renovations are known or suspected, giving special attention to non-sprinklered commercial retail structures