Get the full "Firefighter Injuries in the United States" report for 2012.
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2012 FIREFIGHTER INJURY NARRATIVES
A company officer with 18 years’ experience suffered from smoke inhalation during a live-fire training evolution. On the third evolution of the training session, a three-person crew was stretching the initial attack line into the fire room, with the 40-year-old officer behind the firefighter operating the nozzle. As they walked into the room, the officer attached the SCBA regulator to his SCBA face piece. Once the regulator was attached, however, he found that it did not work and pulled it off. He tried to attach it again as he walked into the smoke-filled room, but before he could, he inhaled hot smoke. He then turned around and pushed his way through other members on their way into the room to reach fresh air. When he left the structure, outside crews and instructors halted the drill and evacuated the building.
On-scene EMS immediately treated the officer and transported him to the hospital for evaluation. Fortunately, he did not lose any time and returned to firefighting activities the next day. The department stated that the officer failed to ensure that his SCBA was on and that the regulator was properly seated before he entered the structure. They concluded that the regulator was misaligned on the SCBA face piece, causing it to malfunction.
One firefighter was injured when a tanker overturned as he drove back to the station after a response to a structure fire was canceled. He had turned the 3,000-gallon (11,356-liter) tanker onto a narrow side street and was cresting the top of a hill when the tanker left the roadway and overturned, landing approximately 200 feet (61 meters) down the hill.
The driver, who was wearing his seatbelt, has been a firefighter for 18 years and has a valid CDL license. He suffered a broken finger and was only hospitalized for a day.
The department reported that the apparatus was traveling at approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and that the driver, who was alone in the tanker, suffered from a reaction to medication and blacked out. He said that he remembered coming over the top of the hill and then being extricated from the cab of the apparatus, but he could recall nothing in between. The fire department did not report whether it has a medical monitoring program.
A 27-year-old firefighter with two years’ experience suffered a major head injury when he tried to inflate a raft to help the local animal control officer rescue a dog stuck in a creek. The victim, who was filling the raft using SCBA cylinders, had just attached a second cylinder and pressurized the fill valve to complete inflation when the cylinder detached from the coupling and went airborne, hitting the victim in the head.
The firefighter, who was not wearing any protective clothing, was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured skull. He was hospitalized for 10 days and returned to firefighting activities nearly five months later. The department indicated that he was unfamiliar with the equipment and unaware of the hazards associated with the inflation process.
Struck by vehicle
A 55-year-old firefighter suffered head and hip injuries when he was struck by a car at the scene of a vehicle crash.
Just before 2 a.m., the fire department was dispatched to a vehicle crash on the highway. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found an overturned tractor trailer from which diesel fuel had spilled. The firefighters helped the sheriff’s department set up a cone barricade behind which they stationed a fire department staff vehicle and a sheriff’s cruiser with emergency lights flashing to close the highway so the hazmat team and a tow company could remove the tractor trailer.
The victim, who was wearing a reflective traffic vest, and a sheriff’s deputy were standing near the two cars at approximately 5 a.m. when they saw a speeding minivan coming through the cone barricade toward the two emergency vehicles. The minivan pushed the fire department staff car into the firefighter, who landed on the hood of the van, riding on it approximately 100 feet (30 meters) before he fell to the ground. The sheriff’s deputy immediately notified EMS and the fire department, which transported the victim to the nearest trauma center.
The firefighter, a 15-year veteran of the department, was unable to perform firefighting activities for more than four months. He is no longer allowed to perform interior firefighting due to limited range of motion and vertigo.
A 26-year-old firefighter with seven years’ experience was hit in the head by a branch while operating a hose line at a brush fire. His company officer saw the branch falling and yelled for him to move, but he could not get out of the way fast enough. The firefighter was wearing leather work boots and leather work gloves, but no other protective clothing.
After he was struck, the firefighter continued to work until those around him told him he was bleeding. He was taken to the hospital, where he received four stitches and returned to duty.
Three firefighters were injured, two seriously, as they stood waiting while a hose was pressurized during an annual hose test at the fire station. The hose, which was 5 inches (127 millimeters) in diameter, burst and slid 14 feet (4.2 meters) into the three, knocking them onto the concrete pad.
One victim, a 32-year-old man with six years’ experience, suffered a head laceration and was able to return to firefighting activities several days after the incident. The other two firefighters suffered more serious head injuries. One, a 39-year-old with seven years’ experience, was not allowed to perform firefighting activities for seven months, and the other, a 35-year-old with seven years’ experience, was unable to return to duty and has left the fire service.
The department reported that the three firefighters were in violation of standard operating policies and testing standards. None of them was wearing protective clothing and they were standing close to the hose.
While participating in a local parade, an engine company with four firefighters on board was dispatched to a report of an unknown type of fire. Approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) into the response, the apparatus left the roadway and overturned onto the driver’s side. The officer was able to use the radio to call for assistance.
The 34-year-old driver suffered a left shoulder injury and complained of abdominal pain. He was only wearing bunker pants and leather boots while driving. The company officer, a 41-year-old with 20 years’ experience, suffered bruised ribs, a shoulder sprain, and an elbow injury. He was wearing bunker pants, leather boots, and turnout coat. The two firefighters in the crew cab, both of whom were wearing bunker pants, coats, and leather boots, received various contusions, sprains, and strains. All four were able to return to firefighting activities within a month.
The department’s investigation revealed that speed and lack of seatbelts contributed to the injuries. The 2007 engine is equipped with a 750-gallon (2,839-liter), L-shaped tank and has three-point seatbelts at all riding positions. The department has a regularly scheduled preventive maintenance program, and preemptive traffic control devices have been installed throughout its response area. The fire chief also said that the department has standard operating procedures for apparatus responses, as well as an annual apparatus safety training program.
The chief disciplined the driver and suspended him from driving fire apparatus for one year.
A 26-year old firefighter was seriously injured when an irrational woman threw a pot of hot cooking oil in his face as he tried to remove her from a multifamily house to which firefighters had responded to investigate an odor of smoke.
Earlier that morning, the department had responded to the same address for an odor of gas but found nothing. Upon their arrival the second time, firefighters were approached by the caller, who told them that the occupant of the first-story apartment was despondent and possibly suicidal.
During the investigation, one of the firefighters looking through a broken window noted a slight odor of gas and heard the igniter on the stove operating. Both men entered the first-floor apartment, and the company officer immediately went into the kitchen to monitor for an explosive atmosphere, while the firefighter began searching for occupants. A few seconds after shutting off the stove’s burners, the officer heard the firefighter screaming in pain, yelling “she threw something on me!”
The firefighter, who was wearing a protective ensemble without his SCBA face piece in place, had been attacked by the apartment’s occupant when he tried to move her from the building to safety. He was hospitalized for three days and unable to perform firefighting activities for over a month.
A 58-year-old firefighter sustained a head injury when he fell down a flight of stairs as he tried to leave a burning wood-frame home after his SCBA ran out of air.
The firefighter was part of a crew responding to a 911 call reporting a house fire at 8:37 p.m. When the fire department arrived, firefighters encountered a fire in a rear bedroom that was rapidly spreading into the attic and venting out an eave on the left side of the single-story, single-family home.
The company officer and the firefighter from the first-arriving engine company had just advanced a hand line into the smoke-filled building when the firefighter’s SCBA end-of-service alarm began ringing. A few moments later, as he continued to advance the hose line, the ringing stopped, and his face piece stuck to his face. Out of air, he pushed his way past several firefighters entering the building in an effort to escape.
The company officer followed a few minutes later, only to find that the firefighter had not left the building. The officer reentered the house and heard a PASS device sounding in the basement. He found the lost firefighter unconscious at the bottom of the basement stairs and directed firefighters in the area to remove him from the building.
The victim, a 27-year veteran of the fire service, had tripped and fell down the stairs, striking his head, while trying to leave the building. He is unable to return to service due to his injury.
The department indicated that the firefighter, who was wearing a complete protective ensemble with integrated PASS device, might not have had a full cylinder of air when he entered the house and that his exit was impeded by other members entering the structure. The department did not say whether the company officer had called a mayday or a rapid intervention team had been established.
Three firefighters received minor injuries when the floor they were working on collapsed.
The fire department received multiple 911 calls reporting the fire in an unoccupied flea market in a two-story, 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) building of ordinary construction.
The second floor covered approximately half the length of the first floor. The building did not have an operating sprinkler or smoke detection system.
When the fire department arrived, crews found heavy fire on the second floor that was spreading into the attic and to the roof. Firefighters assigned to perform vertical ventilation reported that the fire had weakened the roof and that they would not be able to complete ventilation. Interior crews operating on the first floor reported clear visibility, but they were unable to locate stairs to the second floor. The incident commander switched to defensive mode and began an exterior attack after all companies had left the building.
Approximately three hours into the fire, with the main body of fire knocked down, the incident commander decided to reenter the second floor from the roof of the one-story section of the building, and he placed a spotter on an aerial to observe the operation. An engine company with an officer and two firefighters had cautiously entered the second floor to begin overhaul when the second floor collapsed without warning into the first floor.
The spotter immediately called a mayday, and the dedicated rapid intervention team was deployed. The incident commander then conducted a roll call to account for all personnel and asked that ambulances be sent to the scene.
Two of the three victims walked out of the building on their own and were cared for by on-scene personnel. The rapid intervention team found the third victim inside under debris on the first floor and extricated him with relative ease.
None of the victims, all of whom suffered contusions, was wearing SCBA or PASS devices, but all had on protective clothing, including trousers, coats, helmets, boots, and gloves. They were all cleared by a physician to return to firefighting activities within a few days of the incident.
Two firefighters were burned while fighting a fire in a single-story, wood-frame, one-family house that started on a porch when a discarded cigarette ignited an upholstered couch. The home had no smoke detectors, and a delay in fire department notification allowed the fire to spread to the attic before firefighters arrived.
When the first apparatus arrived, a 31-year-old firefighter and a 51-year-old captain advanced the first hand line through the front door. Inside the house, conditions grew worse as crews performing vertical ventilation on the roof were having difficulty venting it.
As the two men advanced their hose line down a hallway, the captain was struck by falling debris that dislodged his SCBA face piece. He was disoriented and getting burned, and the firefighter went to help his officer. When he turned around, he dropped the hose line, and his turnout coat rode up above the waistline, exposing the clothing under his protective ensemble, resulting in burns to his lower back.
A second crew advancing a backup hose line behind the two victims saw that they were in trouble and got them quickly to safety. Neither injured man initiated mayday communications. A dedicated rapid intervention team was in place at the time of the incident, but it was not needed because the two had left the structure. The incident commander immediately pulled all companies from the house, conducted a roll call, and changed tactics to a defensive stance.
The captain, who has been with the fire department for 21 years, suffered minor smoke inhalation and some first-degree burns to his head and face. He was wearing a complete protective ensemble. He was cleared by a physician to perform firefighting activities several days later.
The firefighter, who had eight years’ experience, suffered first- and second-degree burns to his lower back. He was cleared to resume firefighting activities nearly two months after the incident. The department reported that his turnout coat became caught in his SCBA frame, allowing it to ride up, exposing his lower back.