The Memorial Service from the 2013 Memorial Weekend of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM Eastern Time.
Above, WCIV-TV/ABC News 4 is providing live streaming of the funeral for Chief Tom Carr, former chief in Charleston, SC and Montgomery County, MD scheduled for 2:00 PM EDT. Chief Carr died last week at age 59.
Chief Carr was one of the most wonderful and unique fire chiefs I have had the pleasure of knowing. My condolences to all his family and friends.
Do you want to sell a rig? Click HERE to find out how with SellFireTrucks.com.
Command & control: Retired Baltimore Co. division chief goes public over command staffing after last week’s critical injury.19 comments
Reisterstown VFC Firefighter Gene Kirchner (l) and Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan.
Jonathan Hart is a retired division chief from the Baltimore County Fire Department in Maryland. The column below, reprinted with his permission, was published today by The Baltimore Sun. It addresses staffing issues for command officers in Baltimore County that Hart connects to the recent critical injury to Reisterstown VFC Firefighter Gene Kirchner and the January, 2011 death of Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan (increasing command officer staffing was a NIOSH recommendation). Here’s the column:
Over two years have passed since firefighter Mark Falkenhan was killed at an apartment fire on Dowling Circle in Towson. His death resulted, in part, from a collapse of the Incident Command System (ICS), when first-arriving units were faced with heavy fire and multiple rescues. ICS is a procedural policy for ensuring that command and control mechanisms are continually utilized during mitigation efforts at every incident. “Command” is assumed by the officer of the first-arriving unit and passed to the responding chief officer upon his or her arrival.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts investigations of fires that result in firefighter deaths. Among the recommendations made by the NIOSH investigation of the Dowling Circle fire was the following: “Increase command officer staffing to ensure fire fighter safety during emergency operations.”
Despite the clear findings of the NIOSH, very few operational changes have been implemented by the Baltimore County Fire Department to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, and nothing has been done to improve command staffing.
In fact, Baltimore County has fewer on-duty command officers (per capita) than any other department in the metro area. Baltimore County has only three command officers on duty at any given time. Similar-sized jurisdictions (Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City) typically have six to 10 command officers on duty. These departments understand how essential it is to provide adequate command and control on the fireground by enabling command officers to reach the incident scene quickly.
By virtue of the limited number of command officers in Baltimore County, each officer is responsible for a very large geographic area (battalion). Therefore, response times for command officers are excessive. It is not unusual for battalion chiefs to take 20 or even 25 minutes to respond to an incident. These chiefs arrive too late to command incidents during the critical early stages of the fire attack, which is typically when things go wrong — sometimes very wrong.
On Jan. 11, 2011, it took approximately 20 minutes for the initial battalion chief to arrive at the fire that claimed Mark Falkenhan’s life. Upon arrival, that chief immediately made the determination that the building was not safe for interior firefighting operations; he ordered the evacuation of the building. Seconds later, Mark transmitted the “Mayday,” signaling that he was trapped in a third floor apartment. What would have happened if the battalion chief had arrived one minute (or even 30 seconds) earlier that day?
This past Wednesday, firefighter Gene Kirchner, 25, of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company was critically injured during a house fire with people trapped. Although the facts surrounding his injuries are yet to be determined, it seems highly likely that in this case too, his injuries resulted in part from the delayed response of a command officer. The command officer was responding from the Woodlawn/Catonsville area, as would normally be the case. A response from that location to Reisterstown takes about 15 minutes.
Excessive response time; fire involving trapped civilians; critical firefighter injuries. Coincidence?
I joined the Baltimore County Fire Department in 1987, when the department had six battalion chiefs on duty on each shift. Today, there are just three battalion chiefs on duty on each shift. Each chief oversees 16-20 stations. Each chief covers more than 200 square miles. Unlike other departments in the region that assign multiple chief officers on structure fires, Baltimore County dispatches just one. Baltimore County’s fire and EMS personnel are at unacceptable risk of injury and death because there are too few command officers.
I retired as a division chief in February 2012. Throughout my tenure, I remained vehemently opposed to the reduction in command staff that occurred during the 1990s. There are a number of reasons I decided to retire, but my inability to convince the administration of the need to improve command staffing levels (especially in light of Mark’s death) was certainly a factor. I didn’t want to be the chief-in-charge of an incident at which we lost another firefighter whose death might have been prevented by enhancing command staffing.
Two months following my retirement, I met with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. I wanted him to hear from me how dire this situation is. I told him I feared that if command staffing did not improve, another incident would claim the life of a firefighter in Baltimore County. To Gene, the Kirchner family, and to all my brothers and sisters in the Baltimore County Fire Service, I’m praying I was wrong.
NIOSH released reports into the line of duty deaths of two firefighters whose deaths we covered. Below are the reports and some related links. Both men’s names will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial during Memorial Weekend, October 6 & 7.
January 19, 2011, Baltimore County, MD, Firefighter Mark Falkenhan:
July 28, 2011, Asheville, NC, Captain Jeff Bowen:
Video: ATF modeling with radio traffic from MD apartment fire that killed Firefighter Mark Falkenhan.15 comments
This is the video (in three parts) the ATF produced to accompany its engineering analysis utilizing Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) of the fire that killed Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan last year. There are links above to the ATF report by Adam St. John P.E., Fire Protection Engineer ATF Fire Research Laboratory and the internal report the Baltimore County Fire Department released in March. The modeling is matched with the fireground and dispatch radio traffic.
Description with video:
This video summarizes the ATF Fire Research Laboratory’s Engineering Analysis of the fire that occurred at 30 Dowling Circle on January 19th, 2011. ATF Fire Protection Engineers were asked to utilize engineering analysis methods, including computer fire modeling, to assist with determining the route of fire spread and the events that led to the firefighter MAYDAY and subsequent Line of Duty Death of Firefighter Mark Falkenhan.
LODD report: Read Baltimore County investigation into death of Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan.11 comments
Excerpt from the Executive Summary:
In fairness to those units involved in this incident, the investigating team had the advantage of examining this incident over the period of several months. Furthermore, given the size and nature of the event, and the fact that arriving crews were met with serious fire conditions and several residents trapped and in immediate danger, all personnel should be commended for their efforts for performing several rescues which prevented an even greater tragedy. The team did not identify a particular primary reason for FF Falkenhan’s death. What were identified were many secondary issues involving but not limited to crew integrity, incident command, strategy and tactics, and communications. These issues are identified and discussed, and recommendations are made in appropriate sections of the report, as well as in a consolidated format in the Appendix.
Some of the issues identified in this report may require some type of change to current practices, policies, procedures or equipment. Most, however, do not. Specifically, the analysis and recommendations regarding Incident Command and Strategy and Tactics show that if current policies and procedures are adhered to, the opportunity for catastrophic problems may be reduced.
Mark Falkenhan was a well-respected and experienced firefighter. He died performing his duties during a very complex incident with severe fire conditions and unique fire behavior coupled with the immediate need to perform multiple rescues of victims in imminent danger. It would be easy if one particular failure of the system could be identified as the cause of this tragedy. We could fix it and move on. Unfortunately it is not that simple. No incident is “routine”. Mark’s death and this report reinforce that fact.
Image from report showing conditions on arrival.
Live coverage: Funeral for Alexandria, Virginia Paramedic Joshua Weissman. Scheduled for 1:00 PM Eastern time.No comments
The funeral service for Alexandria Fire Department Paramedic Joshua Weissman is scheduled for 1:00 PM Eastern time. WUSA9.com is scheduled to stream it live on the player above. As a backup, Beth El Hebrew Congregation, where the service is being held, has its own live streaming here.
Paramedic Weissman died last week from injuries he received after falling off an I-395 bridge while operating at a car fire.
Below is video from last night's visitation in Alexandria.
Above is video from WMAR-TV of yesterday’s funeral for Lutherville VFC Firefighter Mark Falkenhan. Falkenhan’s 14-year-old son Christian rode on Lutherville’s 1954 Mack that took his father to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.
Click the image above to see more pictures from Essex-Middle River Patch. More pictures can be found at BaltimoreSun.com.
The Baltimore Sun today has an editorial about the death of Firefighter Falkenhan that is well worth reading. Here is an excerpt:
The word “hero” gets used too often to describe the most pedestrian of admirable behaviors, from the star quarterback who marches his team for a winning score to the kid who finds a missing wallet and turns it in. But exceptional bravery, special ability, exceptional deeds and noble qualities — those are what define an authentic hero, and Mr. Falkenhan lacked for none of them.
It was not by accidental circumstance or naiveté that he ended up on the third story of that Hillendale apartment complex in the midst of a fire, searching for missing residents. He knew the risks as well as anyone could. But his selfless desire to help others drove him forward into the flames.
That’s what made him exceptional. That’s why his legacy is important. That’s why the community is in his debt.
WUSA-TV in Washington, DC (with assistance from CNN & WBAL-TV), has been kind enough to provide live streaming of the pool camera inside Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore during the funeral this morning for Firefighter Mark Falkenhan of the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company in Baltimore County. Firefighter Falkenhan was killed last Wednesday during an apartment fire. The funeral is scheduled for 11:00 AM EST.
Small plane crashes into Austin, Texas building housing IRS and burns. Deliberate act. Pilot also believed to have set home on fire. Watch live video and listen to radio traffic.1 comment
Early video from KVUE-TV.
From the AP (updated 3:00 PM EST):
A pilot furious with the Internal Revenue Service crashed his small plane into an office building that houses federal tax employees in Austin, Texas on Thursday, setting off a raging fire that sent workers fleeing as thick plumes of black smoke poured into the air.
A U.S. law official identified the pilot as Joseph Stack and said investigators were looking at an anti-government message on the Web linked to him. The Web site outlines problems with the IRS and says violence “is the only answer.”
Federal law enforcement officials have said they were investigating whether the pilot crashed on purpose in an effort to blow up IRS offices. The Web site featured a long note dated Thursday denouncing the government and the IRS in particular and cited the Austin man’s problems with the agency.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
At least one person who worked in the building was unaccounted for and two people were hospitalized, said Austin Fire Department Division Chief Dawn Clopton. She did not have any information about the pilot. About 190 IRS employees work in the building, and IRS spokesman Richard C. Sanford the agency is trying to account for all employees.
Flames shot out of the building, windows exploded and workers scrambled to safety after the blast. Thick smoke billowed out of the second and third stories hours later as fire crews battled the blaze.
“It felt like a bomb blew off,” said Peggy Walker, an IRS revenue officer who was sitting at her desk in the building when the plane crashed. “The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.”
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford initially said the plane was identified as a Cirrus SR22, but later said it might be a Piper Cherokee.
“It’s so destroyed that it’s hard to identify,” Lunsford said.
He said FAA has confirmed that the plane that took off from an airport in Georgetown, Texas, and that the pilot didn’t file a flight plan.
In a neighborhood about six miles from the crash site, a home listed as belonging to Stack was on fire earlier Thursday. Authorities in Austin would not comment on the house fire Thursday afternoon.