NIOSH LODD Report Issued: Fire Department faulted in firefighter deaths

NIOSH Released its report (F2010-18) on the July 24, 2010 house fire that resulted in the two fire fighter LODDs. Bridgeport fire officials’ failure on nearly every level led to the deaths of two firefighters battling a West Side blaze last July, the NIOSH report has concluded.

Among the findings of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report released Wednesday:

  • The deputy fire chief and his assistant at the scene of the Elmwood Street fire had a discussion about whether they heard a mayday call from the two fallen firefighters instead of taking immediate action to rescue them.
  • There was no rapid intervention team readily available to come to the firefighters’ aid.
  • The report stated firefighters failed to immediately treat one of the firefighters who managed to make it to relative safety before collapsing.
  • Officials also did not properly manage firefighters’ air supplies — both firefighters’ air cylinders were empty when they were found, the report stated.
  • The department’s incident safety officer, who is required to be on scene for assistance in a fire, also did not arrive until more than 20 minutes after the initial dispatch.

According to the NIOSH report, the 40-year-old Velasquez and the 49-year-old Baik, along with two other firefighters, had been assigned to conduct a search for victims and hot spots on the third floor of the multi-family house. The fire already had been extinguished on the second floor.

While the two were pulling the walls and ceiling on the third floor, the fire suddenly reignited. Velasquez transmitted a mayday that was not acknowledged or acted on, the report states. Minutes later, the incident commander ordered an evacuation of the third floor. As a firefighter exited the third floor he discovered Velasquez sitting on the stairs unconscious and not breathing. Baik was found about seven minutes later on the third floor in heavy smoke conditions.

The investigation of this fatal fire by CT State Fire Marshal’s Office remains ongoing.

The NIOSH report details will be published following a more detailed review of the findings and recommendations.

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