As you will recall, Captain Dave Smiley Jr., a 23-year-old volunteer rescue Captain for Delaware’s Minquas Fire Company (New Castle County, near Wilmington), sustained serious burns in March at a working house fire in Mill Creek. Captain Smiley is also a career Firefighter with the Lebanon City Fire Department in Pennsylvania.
This information and the forthcoming report is another opportunity for each of us to focus on our own departments, looking to see if these conditions/situations/problems are “lying in wait” and exist now-or could occur on your/mine/our firegrounds.
Strict Command, Control, Accountability, Communication, Training & Disciplined Fireground Behavior Once Again Causes Injury To The Members of Our Profession.
NOTE: This report nearly mirrors the NIOSH TOP 5, identifying our Firefighters are killed in the Line of Duty when operating on the fireground.
5-Lack of Policy or failure to follow established policy.
A spokesman for the Mill Creek Fire Company, which requested the report be done, said the company was taking immediate internal action on the findings but did not elaborate.
In the report issued by the Delaware State Fire School about the fire, several problems were identified:
Fundamental errors were made by the operators of the two main apparatus responsible for providing water. A Mill Creek Firefighter stated in his interview that he was unfamiliar with the apparatus he was operating. Several Firefighters interviewed about this fire relayed past experiences when the operator of a Hockessin firefighter had difficulties.
—WATER SUPPLY CONFUSION:
The nearest fire hydrant, which was about 800 feet from the fire, was not identified, not listed on internal maps – and may still not be listed.
Water failing to flow from the lead engine because they were improperly connected. The mistakes delayed the fire attack for 16 minutes, according to three high-ranking fire officials who spoke to the media on the condition they not be named.
There were also questions about how much water the Mill Creek tanker was carrying when it arrived at the fire scene. The report was unable to determine if the tanker was carrying its full capacity of water, but listed reasons why firefighters could have run out of water coming from that tanker:
the tank was not completely full;
water was not utilized efficiently;
or the driver shut the line down prematurely, relying on the tank level lights to determine when the engine was empty.
—DISREGARDING ORDERS ON THE FIREGROUND:
Many firefighters chose to remain inside the structure long after it was broadcast over the operational channel that they were to evacuate, on orders of command. Some firefighters even disregarded face-to-face verbal orders to evacuate.
—FIRE SCENE CONFUSION:
Confusion in designating the sides of a structure. In the Mill Creek fire, the incident commander declared the side of the structure facing Mill Creek Road as Alpha side, but other firefighters assumed another side of the burning house was Alpha. This created confusion when firefighters provided updates on sides they thought they were working.
-The injured Captain didn’t have proper firefighting gloves
-The Captain wasn’t wearing or using the waist straps on his SCBA. None of the Firefighters from Minquas that could be observed in video were wearing the waist strap on their SCBA which appears to have directly led to the difficulty firefighters had in rescuing their Captain. When they attempted to lift him from the hole, they were simply pulling the SCBA from his back.- stated the report.
-The Captains helmet was 30 years old and did not have a chin strap, an impact shell and the inner lining and ear flaps were apparently made of combustible material “because they burned completely away,” the report found.
-Different PPE. One firefighter riding Elsmere’s fire truck was wearing his gear from Christiana, while a part-time firefighter on Hockessin’s ambulance wore his volunteer gear from Delaware City. This could have caused confusion if they identified themselves on the radio as something other than the gear they were wearing. There have been documented LODD’s where identification on the fireground contributed to losses.
Much more is expected to come out from this report but once again, focus on using this as a “template” to see if any of this could happen on any fireground that your agency operates on. That’s the value of this information. We wish Captain Smiley a continued successful recovery from his injuries.
Here is the entire media report: https://tinyurl.com/yysf2m4h