National Firefighter Near-Miss Report: Everyone almost moves up a rank

A well-developed fire venting from a structure can capture our attention and reduce our wider perspective. Without realizing it, we find ourselves beginning a wide “360” of the structure and then when we finish are surprised to be brushing the bushes against the building. This phenomenon is often referred to as the “candle moth syndrome.” It is not an intentional action, but one driven by time pressure. Time pressure is self-imposed as part of our brain registers that the fire is advancing and another part of our brain is pushing for immediate action. The result is we overlook hazards, miss cues and return to the command post with more than a few questions still unanswered.

From this week’s National Firefighter Near-Miss Report of the Week:

“…I was performing a 360 exterior survey of a two story residence with a well developed fire venting from side Bravo. While passing side Bravo, the masonry veneer chimney collapsed into the yard missing me by approximately four feet. A paramedic from the ambulance…”

The “360” is the initial phase that provides vital information for the action plan. If the Incident Commander (IC) or any firefighter goes down during this period, chaos reigns. Once chaos begins, the action plan takes a totally different path; a path most firefighters and officers would rather avoid. One consideration is initial view and discussion of the “360.” Where the IC shares initial information and provide feedback on what the view from that spot provides. This report sets the stage for information gathering while circling the building. That information will only be of value if the IC makes it back to the command post in one piece. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. What is the minimum collapse zone that should be established for a two story residence with a well developed fire?
2. Is that minimum collapse zone affected by chimneys, satellite dishes, or other protrusions from the structure?
3. What are five factors to consider when making a 360?
4. What does the term “masonry veneer chimney” tell you about the chimney?
5. Given the fire conditions and structure description in this week’s report, what attack plan would you recommend, offensive or defensive and why?

Had a near miss because of a falling chimney? Cheat death or injury because you took the right steps? Submit a report to and make 2009 a safer year.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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