IAFC: Investigation Following Virginia Firefighter’s Death May Impact National Firefighter Safety

The International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) Safety, Health and Survival (SHS) section will address the national recommendations made in the Prince William County, Va., Department of Fire and Rescue’s investigative report following the 2007 line-of-duty death of a local firefighter. According to IAFC, its work with these recommendations could prevent future firefighter fatalities and have a nationwide impact on firefighter safety.

On April 16, 2007, Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Technician Kyle R. Wilson died in a house fire performing search and rescue for the occupants. After his death, the department rescue formed an investigation team consisting of members of the department and neighboring-jurisdiction fire departments. The team spent almost 8 months performing a detailed investigation and developing recommendations based on available data and standards to prevent future injuries and fatalities. The report identified actions to implement at the local, regional, state or national level.

In his introduction to the report, Chief Kevin McGee said, “This is the most comprehensive after action analysis performance in the history of the Department of Fire and Rescue. The goal of this report is to ensure the loss of Technician 1 Wilson was not in vain, and we are committed to sharing our findings in the hope of preventing the loss of another firefighter.”

The IAFC’s SHS section working group will review the national recommendations, including:

  • Pursue regional and industry standardization of audio warnings – radio alert tones, apparatus air horn sounding, mechanical signaling, etc. – to alert firefighters to an emergency evacuation regardless of the authority having jurisdiction.
  • A review of the self-contained breathing apparatus performance related to all the components must be performed. This evaluation may have industry-wide implications.
  • The fire service should evaluate their initial occupant rescue attempts to include external alerting procedures such as the sounding of the initial arriving apparatus air horns.
  • A national fire service initiative is needed to develop and establish an information warehouse to collect, analyze, catalog and provide a single resource and access point for firefighter safety related issues.

Since the report was released in February 2008, members of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue have presented information on the incident and the report findings to more than 3,000 fire service personnel. Their goal is to ensure that Wilson’s legacy is to prevent injuries and death of other fire fighters.

To learn more about Wilson and download the report, visit http://www.pwcgov.org/default.aspx?topic=040061002930004566.

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