National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Runaway Engine Nearly Strikes Chief Officer

This featured firefighter near-miss report takes us to an event that occurred during a wildland fire but could have occurred during a non-wildland fire. It points out the need to maintain constant situational awareness and a comprehensive apparatus maintenance program. The narrow escape experienced by the report submitter is a reminder that we can take nothing for granted on the emergency scene.

“…I was attempting to set up a command post in a residential area, where houses were being lost to fire. I was located near an intersection, with a fire department engine operating about a half-block away, uphill from me. Visibility was poor due to heavy smoke conditions. The operator of the engine, a 30+ year captain was alone due to reassignment of his crew on another rig. As I was directing incoming units and standing outside the driver’s door of my command vehicle, near the middle of the street, the engine’s parking brake failed, allowing the engine to roll, unmanned, downhill toward my location.”

For this week’s discussion, consider the following:

  1. Place yourself in the position of the report submitter. Were there steps you could take to avoid the risk of a runaway vehicle?
  2. What is your responsibility to ensure that your department’s vehicle maintenance procedures are followed?
  3. Do you have a working relationship with the department’s apparatus shop? Discuss what steps you can take to develop a collaborative relationship with the apparatus maintenance personnel.
  4. How often do you and your crew members overlook “marginal” defects because you do not want to switch to a reserve piece of apparatus?
  5. Does your department mandate the use of wheel chocks? Would chocked wheels have made a difference in this event?   

Have you experienced a near miss during a wildland fire? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

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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