NIOSH LODD Report Faults Chicago Fire Department Communications in Fatal Fire

A federal investigation faulted the Chicago (IL) Fire Department’s communications during a fire that killed a veteran firefighter last year.

Reporters at the Chicago Tribune examined the report’s findings (, which lists a series of “contributing factors” that led to the death of Captain Herbert Johnson in a fire on November 2, 2012.

Some of the major factors cited were poor communication, staffing shortages, and inefficient coordination at the scene. The report also cited modified building construction with multiple ceilings and a multi-story enclosed rear porch, lack of proper personal protective equipment, and a lack of a sprinkler system in the residential rental building, among others.

On November 2, Johnson, 52, sustained injuries at a 2 1/2-story apartment building fire then died at a local hospital. The fire occurred only blocks from his fire station. Battalion Chief 19 (BC19) was the first to arrive on scene and reported heavy smoke coming from the rear and front of the structure’s attic. BC19 surveyed the interior of both floors, while Johnson and a firefighter from Engine 123 stretched a 2½-inch line with a gated wye to 1¾-inch hoseline to the second floor. BC19 radioed the captain from the rear of the first floor apartment that there was heavy fire in the rear covered porch and stairwell.

The captain and the firefighter stretched the hoseline towards the rear of the second-floor apartment. Before water could be applied to the fire, the captain told the firefighter they had to “get out.” Engine 49 (the second due engine) had stretched a 2½-inch hoseline down the alley to the rear and get into position to put water through the attic window. The captain moved halfway back in the hallway towards the kitchen and yelled out that he needed help. As the firefighter dragged the captain to the kitchen, additional firefighters who reached the second floor heard the captain and firefighter collapse on the floor in front of them. A Mayday was called by the Squad 5 Lieutenant on the second floor and the captain was carried down the stairs to the front yard. The captain responded to basic life support measures and was moved to Ambulance 19 for advanced life support. He was transported to the local hospital where he had complications during airway management and died.

For more, go to For the NIOSH report, go to

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