Career Fire Fighter Dies and Another is Seriously Burned Fighting Arson Fire at a Commercial Strip Mall

Report Date: December 2018

On May 18, 2017, a Texas firefighter lost their life and another was seriously burned in a commercial structure fire. The first arriving truck company forced entry and began searching along with the suppression attack from the first arriving engine. The first truck company, then searching ahead of the the hose line, found the seat of the fire in the attic and requested a crew with a hose line. Exterior crews at this time noted fire coming through the roof and were instructed to force open doors for ventilation on two other sides of the building as interior firefighters were instructed to exit until ventilation was complete. Interior conditions rapidly deteriorated and a Mayday was called for two missing firefighter. RIT crews were able to quickly remove the first firefighter, but a RIT crew member ran low on air during the continued search and was removed with serious burns. Despite the RIT crew’s efforts, when the second missing firefighter was removed, he had already succumbed to his injuries.

This NIOSH report details the events of the incident and provides recommendations based on the investigation. There were a number of factors that led to this tragedy including arson, a lack of sprinklers, uncoordinated and excessive ventilation, and air management. There are lessons to be learned about fire behavior, the signs of worsening conditions, and the effects of ventilation on fire growth. These investigations should be used to learn from tragedy in an effort to avoid similar losses in the future.

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  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

    Each year an average of 100 firefighters in the United States die in the line of duty. To address this continuing national occupational fatality problem, NIOSH conducts independent investigations of firefighter line of duty deaths. This web page provides access to NIOSH investigation reports and other fire fighter safety resources.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Career Fire Fighter Dies and Another is Seriously Burned Fighting Arson Fire at a Commercial Strip Mall - Texas. Morgantown, WV: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH Report #F2017-14, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face201714.pdf. 

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