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TRAINING/DRILLS Fire Fighter Close Calls

This section is devoted to those who have been injured or lost their lives in the line of duty with the hope that those who visit this site will PREVENT "HISTORY FROM REPEATING ITSELF" OUR GOAL is for you, as a FIREFIGHTER to LEARN from these "events" and TAKE THE INFORMATION BACK TO YOUR FIREFIGHTERS and SHARE IT WITH THEM!

Each one of these "CLOSE CALLS" can happen ANYWHERE! Each of these FD's thought that "today was gonna just be another day"... just like you and I... and then BAM! Something goes wrong. Please take this information and use it, print it, forward it, post it and do WHATEVER IT TAKES to pass it on and NEVER GIVE UP on focusing on FIREFIGHTER SAFETY! Each CASE STUDY in this section is based upon the writers description of the events.

Be sure to read FIREHOUSE MAGAZINE each month and learn ADDITIONAL LESSONS LEARNED from the CLOSE CALLS COLUMN.


 

FF INJURED AT FLASHOVER TRAINING

Thursday, October 31, 2013  Firefighters from Emery, Loa, Ferron and Castle Dale gathered together at the Ferron fire station for flashover training on Oct. 25 and 26. Crews took time off work to attend the training which, is one of the few chances they have to experience flashover in a controlled environment.

A fire was started in a large metal barrel that sat on a ledge above the firefighter’s position. This reduced the heat inside the trailer and expanded visibility which would normally only be an inch or two off the floor.

Firefighters were taken in four at a time and given the chance to crawl along the trailer while the fire was burning. They were instructed to watch for signs of an impending flashover. This happens when the temperature is high enough to ignite gasses in the air, somewhere around 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is considered one of the most dangerous and deadly scenarios that firefighters can face. Even in the controlled environment and reduced temperatures, firefighters struggled with the heat.

One Castle Dale firefighter was overcome by heat exhaustion and severe dehydration during the training. Fellow firefighters rallied around him, stripping his gear to help cool him down and cover him with water while vitals were taken. Oxygen was administered along with IV fluids in the back of an ambulance. EMT’s were able to treat him on site.

A Ferron firefighter also struggled with the exercise. This was the first live fire training which produces extreme heat for each firefighter. “There’s a difference between watching it, and being in it,” explained a veteran firefighter. “And there’s no way to really prepare until you’re in it.”

Crews take precautions while training. Even with a controlled environment and emergency personnel standing by, training can still be dangerous. “Most people don’t think being a firefighter is hard. I get comments all the time that I just spray water at a fire,” explained fire academy instructor, Matt Evans. “They don’t realize it takes a lot of training to understand how a fire burns and when you don’t understand that you can make things worse.”

Evans along with other veteran firefighters have worked to make training as safe as possible while giving crews a real life experience. Despite their efforts, each fire burns differently and each individual responds differently. “That’s why they take the precautions they do,” Evans remarked.

The volunteer fire fighters completed the training and walked away with a unique experience. The fire chiefs were grateful nothing worse happened and that their crews were able to participate in the flashover training.

 

 

 

 

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE AFTER NON-1403 COMPLIANT TRAINING

Thursday, September 26, 2013  I attended a training burn with my regular crew members. We had been assigned RIT for the day. Everything went perfect all day long, then it came time to do the last burn. The instructors running the live burn training, let us swap out so we could go in on the last burn.We had simple instructions, to go in, get a good knock on the fire and then back out and let the house go. The house was a three story, split level foundation, so the garage (burn room) was about 3 feet below the actual house foundation. We entered on the charlie side. I was officer so second man on the line, there was a newer probie on the nozzle, my best friend was third on the line and a volunteer was fourth man on the line. All of us were from the same department. As we entered on charlie side, we spotted a re-kindle on our direct right. So we put it out. We then turned back to our left, and the nozzleman opened the door to the burn room. The first thing I did was look at the crib, it looked fine. Like normal training fire should look like. My nozzleman and I went down the steps and sat down maybe 5 feet away from the door. I looked behind me to make sure my crew was there, and there was no one. Not my third or fourth line men. They were gone. I was puzzled at first, I thought that maybe the instructors were doing this on purpose. So I started yelling my third man's name. The nozzleman was getting anxious, I could easily tell. I could hear the fear in his voice as he said " what do I do,what do I do". I told him to stay calm, that we were fine and to check the fire. I looked at the fire, it was still fine, it had just started into the rollover phase. I told him to check the fire (open his bail), which he did. We were still ok. Now I'm starting to get worried, my best friend (3rd man) and fourth man were still unaccounted for. My nozzleman still screaming at me " what do I do, what do I do", I looked back at the fire and thats when the smoke went from above our heads to the ground. It was the blackest smoke I have ever seen. With the smoke, it brought the heat. I knew then we were in trouble. With one hand on my nozzleman, I struck my arm out on one side of the hoseline and one leg on the other side of the hoseline and swept desperately looking for my two missing crewmen. The first thing that started to burn were my ears. Then my face, my throat, neck, head, chest, arms, and knees. I knew that we needed to leave. I yelled at my nozzleman, " we need to leave now" and he didnt move. I yelled again. Still nothing. So I grabbed his SCBA strap in one hand, was in a low crouch crawl and swept with my other hand, trying to find our way out because the hoseline was being pulled away from us from the exterior crew. The air in my SCBA tank was so warm that it literally hurt to breathe, I wanted to stop breathing. I just kept crawling towards what the egress door. As I was sweeping with one hand it finally hit the bottom of the steps. As soon as my hand hit those steps, the room flashed on us. All I saw was orange and red, and I was in the worst pain I have ever been in my life. At that point, I thought that we were going to die, in a training burn, myself at 19 years old and my nozzleman not much older.Four people then popped into my head, my mom, dad and two little sisters and how it would be the last time I saw them ever again. Despite burning alive, I kept pulling the nozzleman.I got him up the steps and into the house. I fell down and then rolled over onto my belly. My mask was burnt, the plastic was melting. The fire was now spreading rapidly into the room we had just entered. I couldn't see anything. We then crawled to a window on the alpha side of the house and bailed out. The nozzleman and I were taken to the hospital. I had carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation, 1st and 2nd degree burns on my face, chin, hands, arms, knees, chest and throat. I had singed and burned the inside of my nose. The nozzleman, ended up with a quarter sized 1st degree burn on his shoulder, from where my hand was when I was pulling him out. I had sustained the worst injures because I was in a low crouch, and he was lying down. In order for me to get the leverage needed I couldn't have crawled out. The first thing I said when I bailed out was "wheres my crew". I had no idea where my 3rd and 4th man were. What had happened was my third man had forgotten to connect his regulator into his mask when we entered the burn room. So he got a face full of smoke,so he turned around and left. So the fourth man followed the third mans lead and left as well. Neither of them told me that they had left.There were no instructors inside with us, they had just left the burn room when we were about to make entry. The RIT was delayed as well as the back up team. Because the burn room was in the garage, one of the big garage doors was left open about 2 feet worth. There was about a 10 mph wind. We unknowingly did not catch this. The crib was in one corner and where we had entered was the direct path the fire was going to take. It had no where to go, but on us. The wind and conditions were just right to create a near death experience. One I hope no one ever has to live through. What saved us was the training. The missed family events, forgone social activities, it was and always will be worth missing, because I am here alive today from the training I received and went to.

Follow NFPA 1403 Don't be complacent Communicate with your crew at all times Continue to educate and train your firefighters



 

 

 

 

NEAR MISS DURING TRAINING WITH CHAINSAW

Saturday, June 29, 2013  While participating in a training activity that focused on vertical ventilation and additional techniques related to the 'Denver drill', our department experienced a near miss on severe injury. Our department currently has three firefighters per shift that just finished their probationary period. These firefighters and their respective officers were being taught the technique of 'turning a window into a door' for use in rescue. The tools being used were a rescue chainsaw & K-12. Both vertical cuts into the structure went as planned. However, it was determined that there was a vertical stud right beneath the window that prevented the window base from being rolled out. While one of the officers was demonstrating how to cut the vertical stud, his firefighter moved closer behind him to get a better look. Without noticing that his firefighter was roughly a foot behind him now, the officer finished the cut, removed the saw, and pivoted around to place it on the ground. During this motion, and as the chain was continuing to spin down, the tip of the spinning chainsaw came within inches of his firefighters crotch area.

While this could have quickly turned unfortunate, there were a number of very valuable lessons learned during this incident. First and foremost, always be aware of your surroundings when operating any sort of power or pneumatic tool. It is the tool operators' responsibility to have complete control of that tool throughout the operation. This includes using all safety devices provided (chain brake), and placing the tool safely on the ground when finished. Second, it is the responsibility of the firefighters to either notify the tool operator that they are in close proximity, or remain a safe distance away while watching the operation. Third, it is the responsibility of all who are participating to be more attentive to the operation and watch for unsafe conditions, such as the one listed above.



 

 

 

 

AIRLINE FAILS DURING TRENCH TRAINING

Saturday, June 8, 2013  While operating at a trench rescue training exercise 3 weeks ago we had a close call in regards to a airline malfunction. While shooting the struts the the airline blew away from the SCBA bottle striking the operator in the head. This occurred while air was passing through the regulator to the strut. The operator was wearing full PPE including a helmet and eye protection and was uninjured. Keep in mind when shooting struts in the trench we shoot the struts at 200psi. It was later found that the air hose coupling had failed. The regulator was set properly and the operator had done everything correctly.

Although this wasn't preventable, always inspect your equipment. Always wear the proper PPE. Remember equipment can fail.



 

 

 

 

PROBIE FALLS FROM LADDER - LUCKILY AVOIDS INJURY DURING TRAINING

Saturday, May 11, 2013  I was involved in a Firefighter 1 academy doing a second story rescue evolution. At the end of the evolution, the dummy was to be placed into my arms, and i was to descend the ladder with the dummy. The dummy was place too far out to the side of the ladder, so as i descended the ladder, the dummy began to fall off to the side of the ladder. Not wanting to stop the evolution for fear of failure I continued to keep descending the ladder. At the next lower rung the dummy fell out of my arms, and i grabbed the dummy trying to stop the fall. The weight of the dummy pulled me off of the ladder, and i fell aprox. twenty feet. I landed on my side on asphalt ground. I was attended to by fellow firefighters, but as able to get up and continue under my own power. The only injuries i received were bumps and bruises.

The lesson learned that day was to always think of your own safety and well being first, even if failure is the only option



 

 

 

 

PORTABLE MONITOR THAT WAS LOCKED DOWN LAUCHES AT DRILL

Friday, November 30, 2012  On Friday, October 26th I was conducting training with my crew on Engine 2A at the drill yard in preparation for our yearly company evaluations. My crew consisted of my Captain, my Engineer and myself. The evolution we were taking part in was to deploy the portable monitor in support of a defensive operation. I was dressed in full turnouts and had my SCBA on although I was not on air. My Engineer spotted the rig to the east side hydrant at the drill yard. I got out of the rig and secured the yellow rope bag and the base of the portable monitor from the appropriate compartments. My Captain moved to the top of the rig and handed me down the top half of the portable monitor. I proceeded to the spot I was going to set up the monitor and began by deploying the legs on the bottom half of the monitor. I then placed the top half of the monitor onto the base and swiveled it left and right to ensure it was seated in place correctly. I did not notice that the seating lock was already in the locked position and did not allow the monitor to properly seat. The monitor easily swiveled in both directions and I mistakenly assumed that it was correctly seated. I then depressed the rotation lock on the rear of the monitor mistaking it for the seat lock. As I depressed the lock I noticed that it provided less resistance than usual. At this point I noticed my Captain pulling the 4 inch supply line towards the monitor and I felt an unnecessary sense of urgency to complete the operation. I gave the monitor a quick once over but I did not notice anything unusual. I moved to the large trash bin, tied off the utility rope and moved back to the monitor. I then called for water. Fortunately, my Engineer had the pump in volume and loaded the line slowly. I followed the water loading along the 4 inch line until it reached the monitor and it immediately lifted the top half of the monitor off of the base nearly striking me in the head. The water from the monitor knocked my helmet off. If my Engineer had loaded the line more rapidly, the increased speed of the water would have increased the force with which the top half of the monitor was knocked off and could have potentially caused serious injury.

Reviewing the incident, I believe that two key factors led to my close call. First of all, my mistaking the rotation lock for the seat lock was the most direct cause of the accident. Also, an unnecessary sense of urgency on my part contributed to the accident because I should have taken more time to verify that the portable monitor was properly seated and visually verified that the seat lock was properly secured. One consideration for avoiding a potentially dangerous situation with the portable monitor in the future is to step away from the monitor as it is being charged. This should be a consideration because it is not necessary to have anyone handling the portable monitor when it is initially loaded with water and this is the most dangerous part of the evolution.



 

 

 

 

FF INJURED DUE TO LACK OF MAINTENANCE

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 

This is a little past due, but relevant just the same. I am on a career department and on April 21, 2010, I was injured during training. We had an old pop trailer that had heavy roll up doors, that was converted by the training division into an SCBA confidence course. The trailer was not really maintained well and was later noted to have two separate maintenance numbers. After we were done with training, the officer in charge said to "clear the trailer" meaning to find any lost equipment that had fallen off of personnel that had completed the training. I picked a compartment, opened the door and the door came crashing down on my arm at the elbow. I still had my bunker coat on and was not able to see the extent of my injury. After my coat was removed it was determined that I needed to go to the hospital for x-rays. Initial treatment was for a severe bone contusion. I was off for 5 days initially. I was never without pain and on a recent physical, the department doctor stated that I needed to see a specialist in regard to the injury. After some testing it was determined that I needed surgery and had the surgery Feb 28, 2012. Almost 2 years after the initial injury. The surgery had determined that the roll up door, weighing in excess of 100 lbs., had separated the elbow and caused the ulnar nerve to become entrapped in the brachial joint causing pain at the elbow and numbness to the distal fingers. Excess debridement was done as well as the reattachment of the ligament from the humerus to the elbow region. 3 months of physical therapy was completed and essential job functions were passed to allow me to return to full duty with no limitations. Since my return the SCBA trailer has been removed from service and gotten rid of by the department. A total of 30+ injuries were recorded with the trailer, mine the only one requiring a surgical repair. The rest required time off and in some cases physical therapy. Initial investigation of my injury determined that the counter balances that hold the door in an upright open position, were broken. No documentation was noted on the any of vehicle maintenance logs.
When using ancillary equipment, it is important that maintenance be performed. Also, when injured, don't wait so long for follow ups. It could be too late! As far as recovery, do everything that is prescribed as it will assist you getting back to what we love. By not taking matters into my own hands, and listening to the experts I returned to work, instead of being permanently disabled. Finally, use the equipment for what it is designed for. Taking an old pop trailer and using it as a mobile SCBA confidence course sounds like a great idea, however it was not designed for that and no safeties were in place. In the end it was a bust and has cost the department a lot of money in time off and injuries. Money that could have been used in other fashions.




 

 

 

 

UNINPSECTED LADDER FAILS AT TRAINING EVOLUTION

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 

My volunteer dept. was training with a bunch of other volunteer depts. from surrounding towns at a local training school.We were doing an evolution where we were raising a 35' ground ladder to a structure.We had guys climbing the ladder to enter the structure.As soon as a group of guys cleared the ladder and entered, something broke on the ladder, causing it to retract and crush the steel in a firefighters boot, who was holding the ladder and breaking his toe.The ladder that was being used was the Fire School's ladder.An inspection was not done by anyone training too make sure the equipment being used was safe.It was not the training grounds fault, it was our guys training's fault because everyone there failed to inspect the ladder before use.
You must inspect the equipment you are training with, to insure it is safe for training use.
 

 

 

 

SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO WALK AWAY - BECAUSE OTHERS DON'T GET IT

Friday, May 18, 2012  The Chief Officers and President of the volunteer fire department where I was an operational officer and in charge of training decided that I needed to be replaced. The members of the department solicited the Upper echelon that they no longer wanted to train, drill take classes or re-certify outdated and expired training certifications any longer. So during a recent meeting with the department officers I was told: (QUOTE) "This is not the Marines, people come to the firehouse to get away from their wives and family and to watch TV and relax. They do not want to have to train, drill, wash the trucks and sweep the floor. And they are tired of you telling them that unless they know how to operate the pumps and use the equipment they are not allowed to drive the trucks." I politely told them okay. I went to my gear rack took my white leather helmet and things of mine from my pockets and put them in my car. Then I gave them the radio, pager and badge and told them good luck with their department.
There comes a time when nothing you can do will change certain things. And no matter how much it hurts, there also comes a time when you have to walk away.



 

 

 

 

FF INJURED AT TRAINING BY FALLING HALLIGAN BAR

Friday, April 27, 2012  During a search and rescue training in our multi-story training mezzanine/tower, a firefighter was struck in the chest by a halligan bar that had fallen from the second story mezzanine level down to the tower floor. The halligan was set against an open railing while resetting the rescue randy dummy for the next evolution. The dummy bumped into the halligan, knocking it through the railing. Another firefighter, seeing the tool fall, yelled to the members below to watch out. The tool flipped and fell adze/pick end first, with the pick striking the firefighter in the chest. The injured firefighter was not directly involved in the training exercise at the time and was not wearing his helmet and was in normal station wear. It's interesting to note that the injured firefighter looked up upon hearing the warning and, had he not, the tool would've likely struck him on top of his head instead of his chest. The impact ripped through his button down shirt and t-shirt simultaneously. Luckily, the firefighter suffered only minor injuries, some mild bleeding initially with bruising and a scar noted afterward.
Lessons :Wear your PPE where applicable. At any point on the training ground, a minimum of helmet and gloves should be worn. Those not directly involved in a training evolution (i.e. members on-deck for the next exercise, helpers, etc.) are still at risk for falling objects when crews are operating above them. Provide fall protection for open railings in training towers. We have since placed sections of chain link fence, secured to the railing, at every landing. Also, secure your tools in such a manner that reduces the chance that they will fall if accidentally moved or hit.

 

 

 

 

CLOSE CALL AT DRILL INVOLVING HYDRANT STEAMER

Wednesday, April 4, 2012  While doing company inspections my engine company decided to do a hydrant hooking and pump drill and put our rookie in the driver seat. We were going to pull a 1-3/4" attack line and flow the deck gun. The water was flowing from hand line and the driver called for water and the hydrant was being charged when the male end of the "steamer" connection blew off. The pressure sent the male connection and 5" supply hose 10 feet out.

Remind the "loopers" that you must stand behind the hydrant when opening. Has our AE been straddling the hose she would have taken that right in her chest.



 

 

 

 

PERSONAL HARNESS CLOSE CALL

Friday, October 21, 2011  During bailout training, one of our members forgot to check his tri-link. Fortunately, he had a secondary harness and belay line. He missed it at the start of the tour and then again during the training exercise. Each member has an individual bailout harness pursuant to the NY regulations and is required to check the harness at the start of the tour along with the rest of his PPE.




 

 

 

 

PASS BATTERIES DIE DURING TRAINING

Tuesday, August 9, 2011  During a drill, the low battery alarm activated on the SCBA. The crew continued to drill for another 10 minutes. When they went to activate their PASS alarm, it sounded for 10 seconds and died. They did not realize that this might happen.

Remember, when an alarm goes off when you are in an IDLH situation, it is time to exit.
 

 

 

 

 

DEHYDRATION DURING TRAINING LEADS TO CLOSECALL

Friday, June 24, 2011  During a rigorous extrication / rescue training scenario a firefighter became overheated and dehydrated. FF was complaining of chest pain radiating to the back, neck, and left arm. This progressed to confusion and severe headache prior to the arrival of ALS transport. The firefighter was not overweight and was regularly active. The weather was warm and all participants were wearing full bunker gear PPE. Drinkning water was provided and the firefighter stated to officers he had consumed 3 bottles of water in the last hour. This was later found to be false, likely due to the firefighter's confusion and disorientation. The firefighter was transported to the local hospital, was administered 2L of NS fluid and returned home without further defect.
LESSONS LEARNED: Safety and training officers are responsible for more than ensuring firefighter don't kill themselves with unsafe acts. Although water was provided for all participants, officers should be ensuring that all participants consume an adequate amount of fluids. Furthermore, firefighters must know their limits and stop before they get to a point of endangering the mission of the rest of the department. Like driving safely to the station or the scene, a dead or injured firefighter is worse for the outcome of the incident than no firefighter at all!
 

 

 

 

CLOSE CALL DURING LIVE FIRE TRAINING

Friday, April 29, 2011  On my second night of my control burn for fire school, my crew entered the acquired structure that was lit on fire in one room. The fire was lit in one room and quickly grew to the second ignition area saved for another fire, we would’ve have made it to the fire quicker if someone from the other teams was in the way of my egress to the structure. I was the nozzle man quickly entering the Alpha side of the structure, and crawling the small hallway to the rear of the structure to extinguish our fire when to the right of me i see heavy smoke banking down to my helmet and within seconds heavy fire was nearly over mine and my classmates heads, my second guy behind me quickly alerted me of the increased worsening condition and I was able to retreat a few feet away from the near flashover to safely and efficiently extinguish the fire without incident.

Situational Awareness- Although it was my job in which I did. The other crewmembers should have been aware of the worsening condition prior to me encountering the near flashover occurring next to me. This could have possibly caused some injury if we didn’t see the fire any sooner than we did.
 

 

 

 

 
 
 

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