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Basement Fire Smoke Explosion

Posted By Near Miss Team/ Wednesday, April 10, 2019 / Print


What was your initial size up?
Two-story, wood frame residential structure with smoke coming from the eaves.
Enter a summary of your event:
The first arriving engine gave an on-scene report and assumed command. The next apparatus was a truck then myself with the chief's car. I got dressed and met command in the front yard, and he was in the process of doing a 360. He had radioed that this was a basement fire, I concurred as I saw flames in the basement windows while walking up to the scene. I took command from him and assigned him to fire attack. I assigned the truck ventilation and advised fire attack I would be doing a 360. This was not possible due to fences and trees. I was able to get a quick look at all sides, but not able to physically walk around all four sides. Fire attack had announced they would take the line in the delta side door (thinking the basement stairs would be right there). Meanwhile, as other apparatus were showing up I assigned two rescue crews to search, a ladder and engine to rapid intervention, and an engine company to take a line and back up fire attack. Within a few minutes, I heard fire attack was not locating the fire, and that a backup crew had found basement stairs in the rear (Charlie side). So fire attack came out and joined them in the rear. As they were just getting ready to enter I was in the front yard with the second battalion chief updating him on what we had and assigning him to the safety officer role. There was a loud noise and we were hit with broken glass. I turned to look at the building and saw the first floor on fire. I radioed dispatch that we had a smoke explosion and to sound the evacuation tones. Fire attack radioed they needed an ambulance in the rear of the structure, I requested ALS through dispatch and the injured firefighter was brought out front. I had safety perform a par over the radio, and I did a face to face with all crews as they exited. The officer that was injured was standing in the rear about to click his regulator into his mask when there was an explosion and he was engulfed in smoke. He had trouble breathing due to smoke inhalation. A rescue crew who had been assigned to search had exited the building before the explosion, and the other rescue crew performing search was thrown down the stairs from the second floor, with no injuries. Command then started defensive operations only.
Which of the following occurred, if any?

Describe the Lessons Learned at this Event. What recommendations do you have to prevent a similar occurrence?
Reset basement fires before entering. We teach this but it is hard to break from what we were always taught. Pay closer attention to conditions and make a radio call if you feel something is not right. Search needs to use the same entrance as the fire attack, we had too many doors open.
What changes are being implemented due to this event?

Review of basement fire SOG's and making sure to use SLICE RS tactics for initial arriving officers.


Date the event occurred (mm/dd/yyyy):
Approximate time the event occurred (00:00):
Location of emergency/event:
Was a 360-degree scene size up performed?
Which strategic mode was initially implemented?
Were you responding to a known a life hazard (i.e. CPR in progress, known rescue, critical patient entrapment, etc.)?
List any other info that was important for situational awareness. What were key indicators and factors to consider?

During the after action review, it was identified that due to the difficulty in finding the stairs, it was about 11 minutes from on-scene time to the explosion. During this time, no water was put on the fire. The basement window should have been taken out and the fire reset. The initial fire attack went in the delta side, search crews went in the alpha side, and the backup line with fire attack was going around to the Charlie side. All these doors were opened up feeding the house with dense cold oxygen-filled air. The flow path needs to be controlled. One of the rescue crews assigned to search stated they exited the structure because something didn't seem right as they were having a tough time seeing. This could have been radioed to command. Upon arrival, there was not much smoke showing. When the crews started to enter there was brown smoke showing and it was getting thicker, this should have been a clue. Afterward, it was discovered the occupant had been moved to a nursing home a few weeks prior, so the house was vacant and the fire went unnoticed for some time before a neighbor saw the smoke from the eaves. The next day an eight inch piece of broken glass was discovered stuck in the wood siding of the house next door. A lot of things could have caused this to be a devastating fire, luckily only one firefighter ended up with a twisted ankle.

Contributing Factors 

Factors that contributed to the event:
Decision Making


Were unsafe act(s) performed
Categorize the unsafe act:
Human Error (actions unintentionally committed)
Explain the unsafe act:
Crews not resetting the fire first.
Describe the leading practices you noticed at this incident:
The difficulty in initially determining the fire location and flow path.
Resources and Weather 
Which of the following resources were on scene when the event took place?

How many?
Approximate number of personnel per unit:
Command Vehicle
How many?
Approximate number of personnel per unit:
How many?
Approximate number of personnel per unit:
How many?
Approximate number of personnel per unit:
Did the weather/environmental conditions impact operations or the event?
Wind speed:
Light (4-12 mph)
Good visibility
Additional comments on event conditions:

With the fire occurring at 0130, it was also dark out


Were there civilian injuries or fatalities?
How many civilians had major injuries?
What were the nature of the injuries?
Smoke inhalation in the house next door.
What caused the injuries?
Were there any firefighter injuries?
How many firefighters with injuries?
If injured, did the individual:
Get treated at the scene
Obtain medical care after the incident
What was the nature of the injuries?
One firefighter suffered from some smoke inhalation. He appeared to be good to go after a few minutes but we made him go get checked out anyway. The second firefighter twisted his ankle and was off for one day.
Was work loss time incurred because of the event?
If so, estimate the number of days lost
Less than 7
Was there substantial department-owned property/equipment damage or other department cost?


Report Idcb9eb82f-f748-41d9-8586-6fc1e5fdda5b

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