Colorado firefighters tend to a colleague injured while battling a blaze at a restaurant. At least seven firefighters were injured in the incident. (Photo: AP/Wide World)
2008 Firefighter Injury Narratives
NFPA Journal®, November/December 2009
By Michael J. Karter and Joseph L. Molis
Download the full "U.S. Firefighter Injuries - 2008" report (PDF, 128 KB)
Fall from Apparatus
A 34-year-old firefighter suffered severe injuries when he fell from moving fire apparatus. The victim has been placed on permanent restricted duty unable to perform firefighting duties.
Download the full "U.S. Firefighter Injuries - 2008" report (PDF, 128 KB)
U.S. Firefighter Injuries For 2008
RELATED NFPA REPORTS
Firefighter Injuries for 2007
Firefighter Injuries for 2004 (PDF, 332 KB)
2008 Firefighter Fatalities
2008 Firefighter Fatality Incidents
2008 Catastrophic Multi-Death Fires
2008 Catastrophic Fire Incidents
2008 U.S. Fire Loss
2008 Large-Loss Fires
2008 Large-Loss Fire Incidents
BY THE NUMBERS
- 79,700 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2008, a slight decrease of 0.5 percent and virtually no change from the year before.
- 36,595, or 45.9 percent, of all firefighter injuries occurredduring fireground operations. An estimated 15,745 occurredat nonfire emergencies, while 14,250 occurredduring other on-duty activities.
- Regionally, the Northeast had the highest fireground injury rate, with 5.5 injuries occurring per 100 fires, more than twice the rate of the rest of the country.
- The major types of injuries
receivedduring fireground operations were strains, sprains, muscular pain (48.8 percent); wound, cut, bleeding, bruises (15.6 percent); and smoke or gas inhalation (6.2 percent). Strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 56.5 percent of all nonfireground injuries.
After the victim boarded the pumper sitting behind the officer’s seat, the truck pulled out of the fire station turning left onto the street. The victim, who had six-and-a-half years experience, stood up to don his turnout coat. The truck traveled approximately 200’ and took another left turn. During the turn the victim’s door suddenly opened and he fell from the moving truck and fell to the pavement.
The pumper was manufactured in 2000 and was equipped with seatbelts. The department stated that a review of the door handle was conducted and no defects were found. The truck had a clean maintenance history with no reported problems regarding door handles.
The victim was hospitalized for two weeks with a severe concussion and lacerations to his head. He missed more than six months of work and has permanent neurological damage.
Hazardous Material Incident
The fire department received a 911 call requesting medical aid for a person possibly in cardiac arrest. An engine company with a captain and two firefighters responded. After arriving on scene they discovered a female standing on the outside porch complaining of being lightheaded and becoming lethargic. Firefighter number one stayed with the female while the captain and firefighter number two were directed inside the residence by another family member for the person in cardiac arrest.
The captain and firefighter number two began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Firefighter number one joined the others in performing CPR after stabilizing the female victim on the porch. The captain began to open windows due to an odor of exhaust in the house. During care, firefighter number two stood up and started walking toward the door when he suddenly collapsed. With assistance from firefighter number one and a family member, he was removed from the structure. The captain ordered everyone out of the building and away from the home. He immediately requested assistance and called for a hazardous materials team.
The department investigation revealed that the victim, who died, used a generator within the home for several hours prior to arrival of other family members, who removed the generator from the residence prior to fire department’s arrival and did not mention the generator’s use in the 911 call. Atmospheric readings 30 minutes after positive pressure ventilation was performed revealed carbon monoxide (CO) levels of 13,000–15,000 ppm. According to NIOSH, 1,200– 1,500 ppm is considered immediately dangerous to life and health.
All three firefighters were treated in a hyperbaric chamber. The captain and firefighter number one were released from the hospital later that day following treatment. Firefighter number two remained in the hospital for a day. All returned to full duty within a few days of their exposure.
A civilian driver was killed and a firefighter seriously injured in a crash. The civilian was killed when he drove his tractor trailer truck through a stop sign and collided with the fire engine. The operator of the fire engine was seriously injured with multiple fractures, lacerations, minor burns, and has been unable to work since the crash.
The fire engine was going to a training activity at another fire station and driving at a safe speed under very good weather conditions. The firefighter operating the 1992 fire engine swerved to the left trying to avoid a collision. Upon impact, the front of the trailer truck struck the passenger’s side of the fire engine, rolling it over onto its driver’s side. The impact caused a fire that consumed the tractor trailer truck. The firefighter was extricated by fire crews before the fire could extend into the crushed cab of the upside-down fire engine.
The 47-year-old fire engine operator was hospitalized for three months and is still being treated for his injuries. He was not wearing a seatbelt or any protective clothing.
A fire captain suffered a cracked pelvis and a bisected femoral artery after being caught between two apparatus.
After returning from a call and backing into quarters, the captain was acting as a spotter for a fire engine backing into the station. He was positioned between two apparatus standing on the driver’s side of the parked truck at the front bumper adjacent to the backing apparatus. The captain signaled for the operator of the engine to begin backing. The operator watched the captain in his passenger window mirror while adjusting his course due to a narrow clearance. He switched his view to the driver’s side mirror to check his course and wait for the spotter to emerge on the driver’s side of the backing truck. He did not see the captain emerge on the other side and immediately stopped the truck. He then glanced into the passenger’s side mirror and saw the captain bent over standing next to the front driver’s side corner of the parked engine. He pulled the truck forward 10 feet and parked it. He got out and approached the captain and realized that he was seriously injured and requested medical assistance.
The department provided several safety recommendations, including maintaining situational awareness while conducting backing operations, establishing verbal communication between vehicle operators and spotters, and maintaining appropriate visual communication.
The department did not report on the work status of the victim or on protective clothing. Site conditions were clear and dry with good visibility during the daylight hours.
Communicable Disease Exposure
A regional firefighting training center had an outbreak of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). On the sixteenth day of the recruit academy, a student presented with a red and swollen arm with an accompanying rash. Two days later, a second student was hospitalized and underwent surgery with an infection. In the next four weeks, a total of 10 students out of the class of 15 received evaluations and treatment. Five students had confirmed cases of three different strains of MRSA.
The facilities investigative report stated several factors contributing to the spread of MRSA bacteria. Some of the factors included student personal hygiene habits, communal living, and the background of recruits with family members in the healthcare industry. The exact cause of the outbreak is unknown.
Officials began taking precautions to limit the spread of the bacteria by developing and enforcing infection control protocols, changing living conditions, and learning to live with the colonization of the MRSA at the facility.
On a clear afternoon with moderate temperatures, neighbors called 911 to report a fire in the home next door. The first-arriving companies arrived on scene eight minutes later and confirmed a working fire in the two-story, 3,300-square-foot, wood-frame, single-family dwelling.
The first engine company staffed with three firefighters arrived on scene and made a decision to perform a search of the dwelling for trapped occupants. Two members from the engine company stretched a 200-foot, 1 ¾” handline to the second story of the structure. Within a few minutes, two members from a ladder company joined the search on the second floor utilizing a thermal imaging camera. The members of the engine took a hard right at the top of the stairs and began extinguishing fire to the rear of the master bedroom, which was the first door on the left several feet down the hallway. The ladder crew, after performing a search of one bedroom, advanced down the hall past the engine crew to search another bedroom. After searching the room the ladder crew returned to the hallway and met up with the engine crew at the master bedroom door.
The interior crews experienced increased heat, and conditions rapidly deteriorated. Fire from the first floor was spreading into the foyer and up the staircase, blocking the primary egress route. The engine officer tried to call a mayday but was unsuccessful. In the post-incident review, the engine officer stated that he heard the low battery alert when trying to transmit. But the investigation found that the lapel microphone had separated from the radio and the radio suffered thermal damage.
The officer of the ladder company successfully called a mayday five minutes after entering the structure. The incident commander immediately activated the rapid intervention team and ordered a building evacuation at the same time after the flashover. However, the rapid intervention crew had arrived 13 seconds prior to the mayday. The investigation concluded the RIT had no effect on the outcome of the incident. Just after the mayday message was transmitted, a battalion chief reported a structural collapse in the rear of the building. This localized collapse separated the ladder officer from the group.
The firefighter operating the nozzle turned to extinguish the fire coming up the stairs to protect the means of egress. When he opened the nozzle to flow water, water pressure dropped and the crew lost their effective water stream. The post incident inspection of the 1 ¾” handline revealed that both layers of the hose had been burned through approximately 10 feet from the nozzle. These holes reduced the available pressure at the nozzle.
The engine officer, engine firefighter, and ladder firefighter were able to escape the oncoming flames by retreating to a bedroom and closing the door. After entering the room they heard glass breaking. They searched for a window and found that outside crews had placed a 24-foot extension ladder to the bedroom window. All exited the structure by sliding down the ladder and were cared for by on-scene personnel.
The ladder officer attempted to retreat to a bathroom but was unable to break a window. He retreated attempting to find another escape route. Nearly three minutes after the mayday was called, the tower officer jumped from the master bedroom window with his protective clothing burning. Crews in the backyard immediately rendered care and extinguished the smoldering protective clothing.
The department reported that all four members were properly in their protective ensemble including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Due to excessive heat exposure, the reflective trim on all four victims’ turnout coats and pants disintegrated. This damage indicated that all were exposed to temperatures in excess of 600 degrees F. There were no defects found in any protective clothing that contributed to any of the injuries. However, the tower officer’s gear did show degradation of the moisture barrier and thermal liner in some areas. The department was concerned on why the tower officer’s protective clothing was on fire after he jumped from the structure. The investigative report states that “some flammable agent on the fireground adhered to the clothing or absorbed into it.”
The investigation revealed that the fire originated on the back deck of the house caused by a discarded cigarette. The fire spread up the rear of the structure into the soffits and into the attic. The fire also spread through broken windows in the first floor sunroom inside the structure. The tower officer is currently on restricted duty. The other three firefighters were treated for thermal burns and missed from two to 10 weeks of work before returning to full duty.
Fire Investigator Shot
A fire investigator was seriously wounded after being shot while investigating an attempted arson. After fire crews left the scene the investigator requested a police car to stand by and assist while he conducted his investigation. The investigator, an 18-year veteran of the department, remembered seeing a masked man who yelled at him and then shot him. He was able to call for assistance after being shot in the abdomen.
The 43-year-old victim spent five days in the hospital and is currently on restricted duty, unable to return to work as a fire investigator.
During ice dive training, a 42-year-old captain was pulled unconscious from the icy waters. The objective of the training dive was to simulate looking for a victim that fell through the ice. The drill consisted of several hours of cognitive lessons followed by several hours of diving sessions. In the early afternoon, the dive team went out to the lake and began the dive training.
One of the dive sessions provided training in being the primary diver. The objective of the dive was to vector under the ice to three predetermined holes as targets. After his briefing, the captain entered the water to check the seal of his mask. There were no leaks and the victim stated he was comfortable. His air cylinder pressure was documented as 2750 psi on his diver status sheet. The captain, a veteran diver, then began the training session with good communications from the tender. While subsurface the captain tried to inflate the dry suit to become more buoyant. However, he found that the inflator hose had not been connected. He connected the hose and continued to the first target.
After reaching through the hole, the captain was asked by the tender if he wanted to continue. The captain stated that he was proceeding to the second objective. While being directed toward the second hole, the tenders asked for a diver’s status check. The captain reported that he had 2700 psi and that he was under the ice. The captain dismissed this number as a mistake with his vision due to his recent need for reading glasses.
After the status check, the captain continued his dive. Several minutes later he ran out of air and the mask began sucking to his face. He tried to switch to the backup air system but it was not working properly. He began to swim back towards the hole. Voice communications were out, so he began to pull his tether line to give the emergency signal, but because he was swimming back there was slack in the line. Before he could get the slack out, he went unconscious.
On shore members began noticing irregularities in the dive. No voice communication with the captain, no response from shore signals, and slack in the line were clues that something was wrong. The captain was then pulled from the water eight minutes after starting the dive.
Resuscitative efforts began and an advanced life support unit was requested. The victim responded to the efforts and regained consciousness approximately five minutes later. He was transported to the emergency room and released the same day.
All diving gear was confiscated and sent to a professional certified facility for further inspection. The victim’s main air cylinder was still reading at 2689 psi. The department investigation revealed that the redundant supply valve was attached, locking the valve in the emergency bypass mode, meaning the diver was drawing air from the smaller reserve tank instead of the main cylinder. The near drowning was caused by loss of air during the dive. The 12-year veteran returned to full duty two months after the incident and restricted dive duty for one year.
Michael J. Karter, Jr.is senior statistician with NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division. Joseph L. Molisis a fire data assistant and a lieutenant with the Providence, Rhode Island, Fire Department.