Today in fire history: three firefighters killed in training exercise

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Oct 25, 2011

On October 25, 1987, three firefighters were killed and three others were injured during a live fire training exercise in Milford, Michigan.  The training exercise was intended to simulate realistic fire conditions, improve basic firefighting skills and aid firefighters in recognizing incendiary fire scenarios.

As part of the exercise, several incendiary fire “sets” were arranged throughout the house, most of which involved flammable and combustible liquids.  The “sets” were joined by a “trailer” designed to propagate fire throughout the building once it was ignited from a location at the main entrance door.  Ignition did not proceed as planned, and two firefighters went to the second floor to ignite the sets on that level.  Shortly afterward, four additional firefighters entered the building to make observations.  When they met the two other firefighters upstairs, they quickly realized that conditions had intensified and all six were trapped on the second floor, forcing them to escape through windows.  Three firefighters escaped through the windows, sustaining injuries, and three did not escape.  Factors that contributed to this incident included:

  • The use of flammable and combustible liquids in a live fire training exercise
  • The presence of combustible wall paneling and ceiling tiles within the training building
  • Lack of adequate planning and of communication of the training exercise objectives to all individuals involved
  • Lack of adequate assessment of the hazards of the training exercise and the hazards presented by the structure in such an exercise
  • Lack of an adequate training (fire) ground command structure to ensure safe and coordinated procedures

NFPA members can download the full investigation report and NFPA’s report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States 2010 is available to all site visitors.

-Ben Evarts