NIOSH Publication No. 2005-102:
Preventing Deaths and Injuries to Fire Fighters during Live-Fire Training in Acquired Structures
Fire fighters are subjected to many hazards when participating in live-fire training. Training facilities with approved burn buildings should be used for live-fire training whenever possible. However, when acquired structures are used for live-fire training, NIOSH strongly recommends that fire departments follow the national consensus guidelines in NFPA 1403, standard on live-fire training evolutions [NFPA 2002a] to reduce the risk of injury and death. These guidelines are summarized in the recommendations in this document.
Live-fire training exercises are a crucial element in the structural fire fighting curriculum. Live-fire training is often conducted in burn buildings designed and approved for such training. Unlike burn buildings, acquired structures are obtained from a private property owner and are not designed or intended for live-fire applications. Several factors associated with live-fire training in acquired structures create safety concerns for fire departments: insufficient or unstable structural components (i.e. floors, railings, stairs, chimneys, and ceilings), limited access to entry and exit paths, hidden combustible materials, debris, and inadequate ventilation [NFPA 2002a].
During 1983–2002, 10 fire fighters died as a result of injuries while participating in live-fire training exercises at acquired structures [Fahy 2003]. During 2000–2002, the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program investigated three incidents involving four fire fighters who sustained fatal traumatic injuries while participating in live-fire training in acquired structures [NIOSH 2000, 2001, 2002]. Two of these cases are described below.
A volunteer fire fighter (the victim) died and two other fire fighters were injured during a live-fire training exercise in a two-story duplex. The victim and another fire fighter played the role of trapped fire fighters under a table on the second floor. The victim did not have any formal training, and the other fire fighter had been with the department for about 1 year. A burn barrel on the second floor was not producing enough smoke, so the instructor lit a second flare to ignite a foam mattress sleeper sofa next to the stairs on the first floor. The fire rapidly progressed up the stairway, trapping the fire fighters on the second floor. The trapped fire fighters were recovered from their original position and removed from the structure. The victim was unresponsive, and advanced life-saving procedures were initiated en route to the local hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was listed as asphyxia due to smoke inhalation [NIOSH 2001].
A career lieutenant and a career fire fighter died while participating in live-fire training at an acquired vacant structure. The fire was built in a closet with five wooden pallets and bales of straw as fuel. To produce a larger fire, fire fighters added a twin-sized urethane foam mattress to the fire. The search and rescue team (the two victims) entered the structure to "rescue" a mannequin. The fire intensified, and smoke filled the burn room and the hallway. The Incident Commander (IC) ordered ventilation so a window was broken. Heavy smoke followed by intense flames were emitted. A flashover is believed to have occurred seconds after the window was vented. (Flashover is when all surfaces and objects in a space have been heated to their ignition temperatures.) The IC and fire fighters on the scene did not realize that the victims were in the burn room at the time of the flashover. Failing to contact the two victims by radio, the IC sent in the Rapid Intervention Team. Approximately 10 minutes after the flashover, the IC called for an accountability check on the radio and receiving no response from the victims, he sounded the air horns to evacuate the structure. The attack crew then found one of the victims lying on the floor next to the closet where the fire had been ignited. The second victim was found lying next to the window of the burn room. The victims were both transported by ambulances to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead. The cause of death for both was smoke inhalation and thermal injuries [NIOSH 2002].
Whenever possible, NIOSH recommends that training facilities with approved burn buildings be used for live-fire training. To minimize risks when participating in live-fire training, NIOSH recommends that fire departments comply with NFPA 1403 [NFPA 2002a], including the following precautions:
Site Set Up
The principal contributors to this publication were Jay Tarley and Carolyn Guglielmo, NIOSH.
NFPA [2002a]. NFPA 1403, standard on live fire training evolutions. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
NFPA [2002b]. NFPA 1041, standard for fire service instructor professional qualifications. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
NFPA [2003a]. NFPA 1021, standard for fire officer professional qualifications. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
NFPA [2003b]. NFPA 1584, recommended practice on the rehabilitation of members operating at incident scene operations and training exercises. Quincy, MA: National Fire Protection Association.
NIOSH . Volunteer assistant chief dies during a controlled-burn training evolution—Delaware. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. F2000–27. Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2000–27. [www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200027.html]
NIOSH . Volunteer fire fighter dies and two others are injured during live-fire training—NY. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. F2001–38. Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2001–38. [www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200138.html]
NIOSH . Career lieutenant and fire fighter die in flashover during a live-fire training evolution—FL. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. F2002–34. Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report F2002–34. [www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face200234.html]
The information in this document is based on fatality investigations and expert review. More information about the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program is available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/
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