Fire Instructor I
Poinciana, Florida Live-Fire Training Deaths — July, 2002
NIOSH Report, 2002-34
Florida State Fire Marshal Report
Preventing Deaths and Injuries to Fire Fighters during Live-Fire Training in Acquired Structures, CDC Workplace Solutions — November, 2004
Links to Instructor Resources
Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute Drill of the Month
FirefighterCloseCalls.com Weekly Fire Drills
Career Lieutenant and Fire Fighter Die in a Flashover During a Live-Fire Training Evolution - Florida
Recommendation #1: Fire departments should ensure that the fuels used in live-fire training have known burning characteristics. 1
Discussion: Fuels for training fires should have known burning characteristics, and the quantities used should be the minimum necessary that are controllable and able to create the desired fire conditions. The NFPA notes that fuel materials shall be used only in the amounts necessary to create the desired fire size. Pressure-treated wood, rubber, plastic, and straw or hay treated with pesticides or harmful chemicals should not be used. According to the NFPA, the fuel load shall be limited to avoid conditions that could cause an uncontrolled flashover or backdraft. According to NIST, the fire analysis of the incident indicates that the carpet, the foam padding, the hollow core wood doors and the mattress added to the fuel load and the speed of the fire development. The structure should be inspected to identify and remove materials that could contribute to rapidly spreading fires and create an environmental or health hazard
Discussion: Chapter 10 of Essentials of Fire Fighting, 4th edition, states that "ventilation must be closely coordinated with fire attack." Fire can quickly spread in a structure, causing problems such as flashover, a backdraft, or an explosion. Ventilation timing is extremely important and must be carefully coordinated between interior operating crews and ventilation crews. Ventilation is necessary to improve a fire environment so that fire fighters can perform such duties as search and rescue and approach a fire with a hoseline for extinguishment. Incident command should determine if ventilation is needed and where ventilation is needed. The type of ventilation should be determined, based on evaluation of the structure and the location of any interior crews. Proper venting of heat, smoke, and combustible gas/air mixtures from buildings can reduce the possibility of dangerous situations that confront fire fighters
Recommendation #3: Fire departments should ensure that fires are not located in designated exit paths. 1
Discussion: During a training exercise, every effort must be made to ensure the exit paths are free from obstructions. To provide a protected area of travel, fires should not be located in the vicinity of exit paths. Once the closet area in the burn room was ignited, the fire continued to increase in size, which produced fire, heat and smoke in the exit path of the only doorway in the room.
Recommendation #4: Fire departments should ensure that a method of fireground communication is established to enable coordination among the Incident Commander and fire fighters. 1
Discussion: The NFPA Standard 1403, 2-4.9, notes that communication shall be established between the Incident Commander and fire fighters performing any interior operations, sector leaders, and the safety officer. Proper communication is a must at any incident site. Portable radios should be used to keep all personnel on the scene in communication with the Incident Commander. The use of a portable radio that is located in a radio coat or pants pocket impairs the performance of the unit. Portable radios should be held or used with a microphone and speaker attached to the lapel of the coat, which allows the fire fighter to monitor and transmit a clear message. In this incident, Victim #1 had a portable radio; however, it was kept in the pocket of his bunker coat. Victim #2 did not have a portable radio. During the NIOSH interviews, several of the interior safety fire fighters acknowledged that they were unable to hear their radios during the incident because their radios were in their pants or bunker coat pockets.
Recommendation #5: Fire departments should ensure that Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) specific to live-fire training are developed and followed. 6
Discussion: Standard operating guidelines (SOGs) should be developed specifically for training fires and include areas such as facility inspection, fuel materials, RIT operations, SCBA, water supply, and hoseline operations. These SOGs will then form the foundation as to how the training will be conducted. The SOG should be in written form and be included in the overall risk-management plan for the fire department. If these procedures are changed, appropriate training should be provided to all affected members.
Discussion: Thermal imaging cameras may assist fire fighters by allowing them to see through blinding smoke and in zero visibility conditions. With the help of a thermal imaging camera, training instructors, interior safety officers, and fire fighters may observe and critique participants, ensuring that they develop good foundational skills in areas including accountability, conducting effective search patterns, and handling a hose. A thermal imaging camera may be an excellent tool to enhance training.
Advances in technology allow a thermal imaging camera to be equipped with a wireless video transmitter to provide an instructor, Incident Commander, or other training participants who are outside the structure with the opportunity to observe training activities. Thermal imaging technology allows the instructor and interior safety officers to monitor heat and fire conditions inside the structure, which could help to keep the participants safe. Of course, fire departments must always remember that thermal imaging cameras have limitations and that technology does not replace or alter basic safety procedures and fire-fighting tactics.
Additionally, States should consider the following:
Recommendation #7: Develop a permitting procedure for live-fire training to be conducted at acquired structures. States should ensure that all the requirements of NFPA 1403 have been met before issuing the permit. 1, 10
Discussion: NFPA 1403, Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions, is the guideline for conducting live-fire training evolutions at approved training centers, and in this case, acquired structures. Approved training centers have burn buildings that are specifically designed for repeated live-fire training evolutions. The structures that are acquired for live-fire training are usually in disrepair and were never designed for live-fire training. Any building that is acquired for live-fire training must go through an inspection process to identify and eliminate any hazards or potential hazards that may be present to the participants, the public, and the environment. An application for permit procedure that is overseen by the State through local officials or a State fire marshal would help ensure safety. If training facilities with approved burn buildings are available, then live-fire training exercises should not be conducted in acquired structures.
This incident was investigated by Nancy T. Romano, Jay Tarley, and Stephen Berardinelli Jr., Safety and Occupational Health Specialists, NIOSH, Division of Safety Research, Surveillance and Field Investigation Branch.
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