Loudoun County Virginia Flashover

Earlier this month the Loudoun County Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Management releases a report flashover in a single family dwelling which resulted in injury to six firefighters and one EMS provider. Four firefighters received serous burn injuries, two sustained other traumatic injuries, and the EMS provider experienced minor respiratory distress. This extremely detailed report examines the multiple factors adversely influencing the sequence of events resulting in these injuries.

  • Lack of supplemental information to responding companies regarding the location of the fire within the building
  • Limited situational awareness based on lack of a 360o size-up and failure to recognize key fire behavior indicators pointing to potential of a first floor fire
  • Working above the fire by initiating fire attack on Floor 2, based on the assumption that this incident involved an attic fire based on fire behavior indicators visible from Side A
  • Limited staffing on the first arriving units and delay in arrival of additional resources taxed the capability of the initial companies operating at the incident, negatively influencing situational awareness
  • Building construction, lack of compartmentalization in the open floor plan dwelling, and significant fire load contributed to fire development and occurrence of flashover and a partial collapse on Floor 2

However, the investigation also pointed to a number of factors that positively influenced the outcome of the incident.

  • Quick and appropriate response to escape from the building once conditions deteriorated and water supply was lost to the attack line
  • Rapid placement of ladders to provide secondary egress from Floor 2
  • Immediate acknowledgment of the Mayday and recognition of the need to abandon the building
  • Completion of Mayday: Firefighter Down curriculum and Flashover training
  • Stability of dimensional lumber supporting Floor 2 allowing members on the interior time to escape
  • Performance of personal protective equipment, limiting the extent of injuries

The investigators took a broad based, systems approach in examining this incident. Read this report and evaluate the applicability of the lessons learned to your own organization. The next several posts will examine fire behavior, situational awareness, and tactical factors in this incident and recommendations made by the investigative panel

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

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