Published on November 1, 2017.

Selected Firefighter Injury Incidents From 2016

INJURED AFTER RUNNING OUT OF AIR

The fire department received several phone calls for a multiple-family home on fire. Firefighters arrived on scene within three minutes and encountered a four-story, wood, balloon-frame-constructed building in flames. The wind-driven fire was spreading rapidly from the second-floor porch throughout the third floor and through the roof, and was extending to adjacent buildings to the left and right. It ignited a very large brush fire in the rear of the structures that threatened several garages.

The first-arriving fire companies immediately requested multiple alarms. Twenty-eight minutes after the first units arrived, a general alarm was called by the fire chief, bringing nearly 92 firefighters to the scene. The fire was brought under control in approximately 90 minutes.

A total of 14 firefighters were injured battling the multiple-alarm fire. Two of those firefighters suffered life-threatening injuries. Several other firefighters suffered significant injuries, including a fractured hand, a shoulder injury, and an eye injury.

A firefighter experienced a cardiac event and was hospitalized after overexerting himself at the fire scene. The 25-year veteran was assigned to an engine company that responded on the general alarm. He performed several tasks including establishing a water supply by laying 1,000 feet (305 meters) of hose, connecting hose and appliances, and turning on a fire hydrant. He briskly walked to the fire building after collecting his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and equipment. He was then ordered to advance a hoseline to the fourth floor of the exposure building where an injured captain was operating. He moved up and down the four stories numerous times to ensure the hoseline was adequately stretched while wearing 60 pounds (27 kilograms) of gear and equipment. After the fire was knocked down, he informed his company officer that he needed a break and promptly reported to the rehabilitation area outside the building. He removed his protective ensemble and entered rehabilitation. After 20 minutes of rest, his vital signs had not returned to normal and he was placed on a cardiac monitor. The commanding officer of the emergency medical services (EMS) unit decided that the firefighter needed to be transported due to a cardiac event.

The 52-year-old male was diagnosed with demand ischemia, a cardiac event where the heart needs more oxygen than is available in the body’s supply and occurs in patients with tachyarrhythmia (abnormally fast heart rates). He was hospitalized for a few days and cleared to return to firefighting duties several weeks after the incident.

At that same fire event, an engine company staffed with a captain and two firefighters were tasked with advancing a hoseline into an exposure building on the right side of the original fire building. The wood-frame building was similar to the original fire building in terms of construction type and occupancy. All the fire in the apartment and walls on the third floor was extinguished, and the building was overhauled and thoroughly ventilated. The wind was blowing into the front of the building toward the back with sustained winds at 20–35 mph (35–56 kph) with gusts recorded at 46 mph (74 kph). The officer and the firefighters, along with another engine and ladder company, were ordered to advance a hoseline up the rear stairs to extinguish fire on the fourth floor. Conditions on the third floor were clear, with strong swirling winds blowing through the apartment. Firefighters used the third floor as an area of refuge to conserve their air and removed their SCBA facepieces while cycling in and out of the rear stairs and fourth floor, believing the atmosphere was clear.

The fire captain with 31 years of firefighting experience fell down the stairs and twisted his knee while exiting the building after a strenuous work cycle. He was transported to the emergency room from the scene by ambulance. During his treatment at the emergency room for his knee injury, he began having difficulty breathing, eventually going into respiratory arrest. He was intubated and ultimately treated for cyanide poisoning and hospitalized in critical condition. The department reached out to members who experienced symptoms of cyanide toxicity and directed them to the emergency room for treatment. Three firefighters were immediately treated for cyanide poisoning in addition to the captain. The following morning, another six firefighters sought treatment at the emergency room. A total of 10 firefighters received treatment for cyanide poisoning. Seven of those 10 firefighters treated operated inside or near the same exposure building.

The captain never returned to fire duty and continues to experience respiratory issues.

STRUCK BY APPARATUS IN FIREHOUSE

A firefighter was severely injured when he was pinned between the firehouse wall and a backing fire apparatus.

Upon returning to the firehouse, an engine company with a company officer and two firefighters pulled onto the apron parallel to the fire station. The officer and the firefighter got off the truck. The driver was under the supervision of the company officer and was in driver’s training, and had already completed 17 hours of documented driver’s training.

The driver pulled the apparatus to the right to align the truck with the bay and began backing in. The officer and another firefighter (the victim) acted as spotters to aid the driver in backing into the station. The firefighter positioned to the rear of the backing fire truck on the driver’s side moved just inside the garage door and the driver lost sight of him due to the darkness of the garage bay and the sun glare outside. The officer kept giving the driver the backup signal. The firefighter noticed that the truck was off course and not directly in line with the bay and tried to squeeze between the door frame of the apparatus bay and the backing apparatus. The driver, who was looking at the officer in the passenger’s side mirror, continued backing and did not see the firefighter. The truck pinned the firefighter between the apparatus and fire station wall.

The officer immediately signaled the driver to pull forward and he immediately moved the truck forward and parked the truck.

The 61-year-old firefighter suffered head trauma and was hospitalized for several days. He was cleared to resume firefighting nearly five months after the incident. After being involved in the fire service for 22 years, he decided not to return to active duty.

APPARATUS STRUCK BY PASSENGER VEHICLE

Three firefighters suffered injuries in a crash while returning to the firehouse after apparatus maintenance.

A company officer, driver, and firefighter were riding on the tiller truck at the time of the crash. A passenger vehicle with an adult and two young children drove through a red traffic light, striking the rear wheels of the tractor, causing the tiller to jackknife around the vehicle.

All three firefighters were wearing seatbelts and were slightly injured. The firefighters immediately treated the victims in the sedan, which included a six-year-old girl who suffered severe injuries.

All the firefighters returned to firefighting activities soon after the incident.

INJURED DURING BAILOUT TRAINING

A firefighter was injured when he fell from a second-floor window during mandatory bailout training.

The victim was given the OK to begin the training evolution after instructors determined he was wearing his class 3 harness and was attached properly to the belay line. After a quick check that all safety systems were in place and ready, the victim began his evolution. He attempted to perform the maneuver quickly in a real-time fashion, contrary to the instructors’ direction to conduct the maneuver in a controlled manner. He placed his tool on the left side of the window frame and began his bailout maneuver, rolling out the window to his right. The tool slipped off the window sill, causing the firefighter to fall. The belay line, which was equipped with a self-braking industrial descender, activated but did not stop his descent before his SCBA valve struck the ground.

Investigators found that the industrial descender worked properly; however, the belay line rope was incorrectly placed over the tension line while in use, which was a contributing factor in the fall. Also, the victim’s quick movements likely contributed to increased and unwanted slack in the belay line.

The department did not report specific information on the firefighter’s injuries.

FIREFIGHTER’S LEG AND FOOT RUN OVER BY APPARATUS

Members of a local fire department were at a high school gymnasium preparing for the funeral of a former firefighter when a call for a brush fire came in. The driver and a lieutenant were ordered to return to the station with the engine truck with lights and siren, park it in the station, then proceed to the fire with the department’s brush truck.

The engine truck pulled onto the apron and pulled forward into the street to back into the firehouse. In accordance with department protocol, the lieutenant disembarked the truck to act as a spotter but did so before the truck came to a complete stop. Once on the ground, he was in direct line with the front tire as it slowly moved forward and to the right. The truck ran over his foot and leg, knocking him to the ground. The driver, looking in his rearview mirror, did not realize he had just struck the spotter. The driver stated he was looking in his rearview mirror but did hear the lieutenant undo his seatbelt or the click of the door. When he looked to his right, the passenger door was open. He immediately placed the truck in park to close the door. At this time, he heard the victim screaming that he was pinned under the tire. The driver put the truck in reverse, freeing the victim’s foot and leg.

The 42-year-old lieutenant was able to return to the fire service about six months after his injury.

ELECTRICAL BURNS AND MULTIPLE FRACTURES IN TECHNICAL RESCUE INCIDENT

A firefighter was seriously injured during a technical rescue incident.

The 32-year-old firefighter was attempting to evacuate a hiker needing medical attention. Firefighters requested a helicopter evacuation. A helicopter arrived on scene approximately 45 minutes after the call for help was received. One firefighter and the patient were being lifted off the trail in a rescue basket when it became snared on a utility pole, tipping the basket. The firefighter, who was not secured into the basket, fell approximately 30 feet (9.1 meters) to the ground. The victim remained inside the basket and was transported to safety and cared for by other firefighters.

The seven-year veteran firefighter suffered electrical burns and multiple fractures from the fall. He was able to return to firefighting activities about six months after the incident.

CARDIAC EVENT AT FIRE INCIDENT

In the early morning hours, the fire department received calls reporting a barn on fire. The department responded with four apparatus and approximately 15 firefighters on scene. Upon the department’s arrival, firefighters encountered a barn fully engulfed in flames.

An engine company stopped at a fire hydrant and began establishing a water supply. A 34-year-old firefighter pulled a supply line from the truck and wrapped it around the hydrant. As the truck pulled away, a second member went to the truck to grab a hydrant wrench. When he came back to the fire hydrant, the other firefighter was laying on the ground, unresponsive.

A mayday was called immediately as the firefighter collected the rescue bag and the automatic external defibrillator (AED). Other firefighters quickly came over to help, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and ventilation for the firefighter in sudden cardiac arrest.

One shock with the AED was delivered and CPR continued. During the next pulse check, the AED advised no shock and a pulse was detected. The victim began breathing and regained consciousness. He was transported to the emergency room.

The victim had 16 years in the fire service at the time of the incident. He was hospitalized for a week and his physician gave him a clean bill of health six months after incident. He has resumed all firefighting activities.

FALL FROM LADDER DURING FIREFIGHTING ACTIVITIES

Workers at an auto body repair shop used a shop vacuum to clean up a gasoline spill, and the gasoline vapors ignited immediately. The workers tried to control the small but rapidly growing fire with a portable extinguisher, then called 911 after the attempt proved unsuccessful.

The first fire department crews arrived three minutes later and encountered multiple vehicles on fire inside one of the seven garage bays. The single-story, unprotected noncombustible building covered approximately 15,000 square feet (1,394 square meters). The fire was rapidly extending to the adjacent bays and through the roof. The building was not equipped with detection or sprinkler systems.

During suppression efforts, a firefighter handling a hand-line from a ground ladder placed against the roofline fell approximately 20 feet (6.1 meters) after losing control of the nozzle. A dedicated rapid intervention team staffed with three firefighters quickly deployed and removed the victim from the front of the burning structure.

The 41-year-old firefighter was wearing a complete protective ensemble when he fell from the ladder and suffered contusions, sprains, and minor trauma. He was able to return to firefighting activities several weeks after the incident.