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Fundamentals of Fire Protection 30 April 2006Tragedy in Worcester December 3, 1999 December 3, 1999 is a day that forever changed the Worcester Fire Department.

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Introduction

Dale Skinner Instructor Jeff King FIRT 1301 - Fundamentals of Fire Protection 30 April 2006 Tragedy in Worcester December 3, 1999 December 3, 1999 is a day that forever changed the Worcester Fire Department. Six career fire fighters died after they became lost in a six-story, maze-like, cold storage and warehouse building. Those lost were, Joseph T. McGuirk, 38; James F. Lyons III, 34; Lt. Thomas E. Spencer, 42; Timothy P. Jackson, 51; Paul A. Brotherton, 41; and Jeremiah M. Lucey, 38. (Firehouse.com/worcester May 2002) This research will discuss the importance of operating within the incident command system, the importance of an accountability system, crew integrity, rapid intervention teams and the use of thermal imaging cameras, and operations at abandoned occupancies. The first report of the fire was made by an off-duty police officer who was passing by. The officer reported that smoke was coming from the roof of the structure. The first alarm was struck at 1815 hours. Responding on the first alarm were Engines 1, 6, 12, and 13, along with Ladders 1 and 5, Rescue 1, and Car 3. Engine 1 was first to arrive on the scene at 1816 hours and reported heavy smoke showing. Units were assigned to search the building for victims and locate the fire. ...read more.

Middle

(Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Investigative Report #99F-47 Sept. 27, 2000) At 1854 hours, IC#2 requested a 4th alarm be struck and verification from Interior Command what floor the two firefighters were lost on. Interior Command replied they were two floors from the top and that he had crews going up to find them. Interior Command then requested Brotherton and Lucey to activate their PASS devises. One of them replied that their PASS was activated. Arriving on the 3rd alarm with Ladder 2 was Lieutenant Spencer and Firefighter Jackson. Ladder 2 was directed to conduct a search on the fifth floor. While conducting their search, they became disoriented and low on air and requested Interior Command to send someone up the stairwell and yell. The crew from Engine 3 responded to the request but never made contact with Spencer and Jackson. Engine 3 arrived on the scene and split the crew. The Lieutenant went to the command post and was given orders to conduct a search on the fourth and fifth floors. After conducting their search, they returned to the A side of the building and began firefighting activities with a 1 3/4" hand-line. Also arriving on Engine 3 were Firefighters McGuirk and Lyons who never checked in at the command post nor received an assignment. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is assumed that four of the firefighters lost did not utilize a tag-line to conduct their searches and became disoriented and lost. To assist in conducting a rapid search, thermal imaging cameras should be utilized by all rapid intervention teams. "TIC cameras should be part of every Safety Engine/RIT initial cache of tools. If prolonged search operations are necessary, multiple TIC cameras may be needed to expedite the rescue effort. The Incident Commander should consider requesting additional TIC cameras immediately upon notification of a trapped, lost or disoriented member." (Firehouse.com 26 June 2004) Another factor on the fireground is operating in vacant buildings. Proper risk management must play a significant role in the decision to deploy crews into an occupancy in which a high potential for firefighter injury or loss exist. Pre-fire planning vacant or abandoned structures will enable firefighters to identify which buildings within their jurisdiction require defensive operations to maintain firefighter safety and survival. The tragic loss of these firefighters should not be in vain. Firefighters across the nation should study this incident and learn from the mistakes made that December day. Perhaps if all crews operated within a well structured incident command system, managed personnel accountability, maintained crew integrity, utilized tag-lines and thermal imaging cameras, four of these firefighters lives might have been spared. Most importantly, if a pre-fire plan had been conducted on this structure, interior operations would not have been initiated therefore preventing the loss of lives December 3, 1999. ...read more.

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