NIOSH Releases Report on Junior Firefighter Death in Pennsylvania

Washington, D.C. – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released its report on the firefighter fatality investigation of a junior firefighter killed while responding to an alarm on his bicycle. The report makes several recommendations to the fire service to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

On May 4, 2002, a 14-year-old male junior volunteer fire fighter (the victim) was fatally injured while responding to a fire alarm on his bicycle. He was on his way to the fire station and crossed a “T” intersection without stopping and was struck by an automobile. The victim was treated at the scene and then transported to a local hospital. He was later transported by helicopter to a nearby children’s hospital where he was pronounced dead the following day.

On May 7, 2002, the Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner’s Office and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) notified the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of this fatality. On May 14, 2002, the Team Leader of the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program investigated the incident. Interviews were conducted with the Chief, assistant chiefs, the safety officer of the department, and with the police officer who investigated the incident. The NIOSH investigator reviewed copies of the Department Junior Emergency Service Compliance Manual, pictures of the incident, training records of the victim, and death certificate. The incident site was visited and photographed.

At the time of the incident, the 14-year-old victim had been a junior volunteer fire fighter for approximately 1 year. The State of Pennsylvania provides published material (Pennsylvania Junior Emergency Services Compliance Manual) to be followed by fire departments in Pennsylvania who have members that are designated as junior fire fighters (14-17 years old). The victim had successfully completed hazardous materials and first responder awareness training.

NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:

  • provide fire fighters, including junior fire fighters, with hazard awareness training that includes unique hazards that may be encountered when using unconventional means of transportation (e.g., bicycles, scooters, etc.,) to respond to or return from fire alarms;
  • develop, implement, and enforce a policy which requires the use of approved personal protective equipment (PPE) including helmets and appropriate clothing when using unconventional means of transportation while responding to or returning from alarms; and
  • review and revise, where applicable, Junior Emergency Service Compliance Manuals to address hazards associated with responding to or returning from fire alarms for individuals who use unconventional means of transportation

    To view the entire report, visit

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