Remember the fallen by reviewing lessons from both fires

Lt. Curtis Meyran, Lt. John Bellow and Lt. Joseph DiBernardo died from their injuries during an apartment fire in the Bronx. Firefighter Richard Sclafani died the same day during a fire in Brooklyn. (Fire Department City of New York photos)

Bronx 0759 hrs.

On January 23, 2005, a 46-year-old male career Lieutenant (Victim #1) and a 37-year-old male career fire fighter (Victim #2) died, and four career fire fighters were injured during a three alarm fire in a four story apartment building. The victims and injured fire fighters were searching for any potentially trapped occupants on the floor above the fire. The fire started in a third floor apartment and quickly extended to the fourth floor. Fire fighters had been on the scene less than 30 minutes when they became trapped by advancing fire and were forced to exit through the fourth floor windows. The six fire fighters were transported to metropolitan hospitals where the two victims were later pronounced dead.

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

- review and follow existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for structural fire fighting to ensure that fire fighters operating in hazardous areas have charged hoselines
- ensure that fire fighters are trained on the hazards of operating on the floor above the fire without a charged hoseline and follow associated standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- ensure that fire fighters conducting interior operations provide the incident commander with progress reports
- ensure that team continuity is maintained during interior operations
- review and follow existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for incident commanders to divide up functions during complex incidents
- ensure that Mayday transmissions are prioritized and fire fighters are trained on initiating Mayday radio transmissions immediately when they become trapped inside a structure
- develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for fire fighting operations during high wind conditions
- provide fire fighters with the appropriate safety equipment, such as escape ropes, and associated training in jurisdictions where high-rise fires are likely

Additionally,
- Building owners should follow current building codes for the safety of occupants and fire fighters

Read the Report


Brooklyn 1137 hrs.

On January 23, 2005, a 37-year-old male career fire fighter (the victim) died while exiting a residential basement fire. At approximately 1337 hours, crews were dispatched to a reported residential structure fire. Crews began to arrive on the scene at approximately 1340 hours and at approximately 1344 hours, the victim, a fire fighter and officer made entry through the front door and proceeded down the basement stairwell to conduct a search for the seat of the fire using a thermal imaging camera (TIC). At approximately 1346 hours, the victim and officer began to exit the basement when they became separated on the lower section of the stairwell. The officer reached the front stoop and realized that the victim had failed to exit the building. He returned to the top of the basement stairs and heard a personal alert safety system (PASS) alarm sounding in the stairwell and immediately transmitted a MAYDAY for the missing fire fighter. The victim was located at approximately 1349 hours, and numerous fire fighters spent the next twenty minutes working to remove the victim from the building. At approximately 1413 hours, the victim was transported to an area hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:
ensure that the first arriving officer or incident commander (IC) conducts a complete size-up of the incident scene
- ensure that fire fighters conducting interior operations provide progress reports to the Incident Commander
- establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding thermal imaging camera (TIC) use during interior operations
- ensure that MAYDAY procedures are followed and refresher training is provided annually or as needed
- ensure that a rapid intervention team (RIT) is on the scene and in position to provide immediate assistance prior to crews entering a hazardous environment
- educate homeowners on the importance of installing and maintaining smoke detectors on every level of their home and keeping combustible materials away from heat sources.

Although there is no evidence that the following recommendation could have specifically prevented this fatality, NIOSH investigators recommend that fire departments should:
- ensure that fire fighting teams check each other’s personal protective equipment (PPE) for complete donning.

Read the Report

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