Two Fire Fighters Die and Two are Injured in Townhouse Fire

Report Date: November 1999

On May 30, 1999, two firefighters lost their lives and another firefighter and fire officer suffered severe burns in a townhouse fire in the District of Columbia. After confusion about the location of the fire (crews in the rear believed that they were entering the first floor, but it was in fact the basement), conditions on the first floor deteriorated rapidly, causing firefighters to search for an exit. Just after the fire became visible of the first floor, everything went black and there was an intense blast of heat. The victims were unable to escape and the injured firefighters exited with severe burns. NIOSH contributing factors included a lack of a 360 degree size-up, insufficient communication, and improper coordination of ventilation and suppression. Additional investigations by NIST provided insight on the thermal conditions in the fire. Based on simulation with the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS), ventilation provided oxygen to a preheated, under-ventilated fire compartment which quickly developed into a post-flashover fire. 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 of Standards and Technology

    The NIST Fire Research Division develops, verifies, and utilizes measurements and predictive methods to quantify the behavior of fire and means to reduce the impact of fire on people, property, and the environment. This work involves integration of laboratory measurements, verified methods of prediction, and large-scale fire experiments to demonstrate the use and value of the research products.

    Through its programs in measurement, prediction, systems integration, and the dynamics of fire and its interactions with the built and natural environment, the division provides leadership for advancing the theory and practice of fire safety engineering, fire fighting, fire investigation, fire testing, fire data management, and intentional burning.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Two Fire Fighters Die and Two are Injured in Townhouse Fire – District of Columbia. Morgantown, WV: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH Report #99F-21, 1999. Print.

Madrzykowski, Daniel and Robert L. Vettori. Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE, Washington D.C., May 30, 1999. Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute for Standards and Technology, NISTIR 6510, 2000. Print.

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