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Report released: PGFD Safety Investigation Team looks at Riverdale Heights, MD fire that injured 7 firefighters.

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Maryland’s Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department is holding a briefing for the press this afternoon on the release of its Safety Investigative Team Report into the February 24, 2012 fire in Riverdale Heights that injured seven firefighters. The executive summary is below and you can click here to read the entire 300 page report. News coverage of today’s event will be added when available.

Executive Summary 

On February 24, 2012, at 2111 hours, Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department personnel responded to a structure fire at 6404 57th Avenue in Riverdale Heights, Maryland. Upon arrival, Fire/EMS Department personnel observed flames extending out of a basement window, pressurized smoke on the first floor, and high winds impacting the rear of the structure.  

Shortly after arriving, firefighters forced the front door of the structure, which immediately changed the fire’s flow path and dynamics by adding a ventilation opening above the fire. This situation was intensified by weather conditions (high winds impacting the rear of the structure). Firefighters entered the structure through the front door, placing themselves above the basement fire and in its outflow path. This exposed them to high velocity and high temperature gases.  

Two (2) firefighters were trapped on the first floor without the protection of a hose line, when the front door shut behind them and changed the fire’s flow path. The hot smoke and gases that were coming up the interior stairwell and escaping out the front door were now contained to the first floor. This dropped the smoke layer to the floor and temporarily increased the temperatures from floor to ceiling in the front room where the firefighters were trapped. One (1) firefighter was able to self-rescue through a front window and the other firefighter was removed through the front door by other firefighters. The fire in the basement was burning unchecked, until an engine company entered the basement from the rear of the structure and began putting water on the fire.

Ultimately seven (7) firefighters were injured; the two (2) firefighters that were trapped on the first floor sustained the most significant injuries. There have been several documented incidents in the County, as well as nationally, with similar concerning tactics and operations, that have injured or killed firefighters, such as DCFD Cherry Road LODD[1], SFFD Diamond Heights LODD[2], and BCoFD Dowling Circle LODD[3].

This makes the recommendations of this report vitally important.   

The Safety Investigation Team (Team) visited the scene, reviewed statements, conducted interviews, and gathered data during the course of the investigation. The Team identified many factors that contributed to the outcome and injuries to the firefighters. While the report details all of these factors, the Team identified the following as most critical:  

  1. An effective size-up was not completed, including a 360-degree survey walk around the building, as well as evaluating environmental conditions.
  2. No incident action plan was communicated, and firefighters were dangerously positioned above and in the outflow path of the fire.
  3. A firefighter emergency occurred, but no MAYDAY was effectively communicated.
  4. Multiple existing policies and procedures were not followed.
  5. Training deficiencies were identified at all levels.
  6. Command, control, and accountability deficiencies were identified at all levels.  

While the Team analyzed the entire incident, the focus of this investigation was to determine what happened, what factors led to the injuries and, most importantly, what recommendations should be made so future incidents do not have similar or worse outcomes. During the course of the investigation, the Team prepared many recommendations intended to assist the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department in improving the operational safety of personnel, fireground operations, command and control of fire incidents, as well as training. These recommendations, which are listed throughout the report, are separated into categories termed: immediate (red – Life safety & firefighter survival), short term (yellow – Relatively easy to implement), and long term (green – May require significant planning including fiscal impacts). A complete list of all recommendations is provided in Appendix 1.

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