The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and the Boston Fire Department today released reports on their investigations of the Back Bay fire that resulted in the tragic loss of two firefighters on March 26, 2014. Welders installing railings on a nearby building caused the fire; the welding company did not have the necessary permits for this work.
According to the NIOSH report, there were several contributing factors to the fatalities, including the wind-driven nature of the fire itself; firefighter training, staffing and tactics; and the location of fire hydrants. The report cited 15 recommendations, including the provision of a Mayday tactical checklist; requiring the use of sprinkler systems in residential structures and the establishment of retroactive requirements for the installation of fire sprinkler systems; and consideration for the effects of thermal degradation on fire attack hose.
“There are so many factors that can contribute to a fire incident going horribly wrong, horribly fast,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of NFPA’s Outreach and Advocacy. “It is our role to look at these reports and other information so we can learn all we can to improve firefighter and public safety, and prevent a similar tragedy in the future.”
Since the Back Bay incident occurred nearly two years ago, the Technical Committee for NFPA 1961, Standard on Fire Hose, has received input from multiple stakeholders, including Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the Federal Bureau of Arson, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in support of examining the existing requirements in NFPA 1961, and in determining whether changes need to be made to the next edition of the standard, to be issued in 2018. As part of those ongoing efforts, a workshop among the NFPA 1961 Technical Committee and other vested parties is planned for this May.
NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation (the Foundation) - the research affilliate of NFPA - offer resources and information that address issues related to this incident:
- "Firefighter Tactics Under Wind-Driven Conditions" is an extensive report from the Foundation, which addresses tactics for handling wind-driven fires. This document has been effectively used by urban fire departments throughout the country to train firefighters on how to safely and adequately respond to the unique conditions and challenges presented by wind-driven fires.
- "Firefighter Fatalities in the U.S." report provides data on the number and causes of firefighter deaths in the U.S. each year.
- NFPA has worked with the Boston Fire Department and the City of Boston to develop a training and certification program for individuals conducting hot works in Boston based on NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting and Other Hot Works.
- NFPA 1961, Standard on Fire Hose, defines the design and construction requirements for new fire hose; the testing required to verify the design and construction; and the inspection and testing required of all new fire hose. (Note: ANSI/UL 19, Standard for Lined Fire Hose and Hose Assemblies, and FM Class Number 2111, Factory Mutual Approval Standard for Fire Hose, identify the heat resistance tests required, as referenced in NFPA 1961.)
- NFPA 1962, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing, and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles, and Fire Hose Appliances, provides requirements for fire hose, couplings, nozzles, and appliances in order to ensure a reasonable level of reliability when they are used at an incident.
- NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative (FSI) is the leading advocacy effort to promote requirements for the installation of sprinklers in all new residential construction, in accordance with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.
- NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health
- NFPA 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments.
WPI has established on online fire attack hose burn-through survey to capture fire incidents involving fire hose failure. We strongly encourage fire departments to submit related incidents and/or information through this registry, and to help more accurately capture the actual occurrence of fire hose failures nationwide.