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Emphasis on training, incident strategy recommended by board following firefighter's death

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Posted at 3:22 PM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-22 15:23:31-04

MARRIOTTSVILLE, Md. — A year after Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services experienced their first-career line of duty death while battling a massive house fire in Clarksville, a review committee has returned a series of recommendations to improve safety and accountability in the department.

READ MORE: Firefighter dies battling massive house fire in Clarksville

Lt. Nathan Flynn was part of the first team of firefighters to respond to the house in the 7000 block of Woodscape Drive at about 2 a.m. on July 23, 2018. Firefighters were told people were in the house when they arrived. Flynn entered the home but fell through the first floor. A mayday was called, and a rapid intervention team was deployed to find Flynn among heavy smoke conditions in the basement. Once found, Flynn was rushed to Howard County General Hospital in critical condition. He died later at the hospital.

READ MORE: Howard County Fire Department grieves for fallen firefighter Nathan Flynn

The blaze grew to a 7-alarm fire, as multiple companies responded. After Flynn fell through the floor, firefighters mostly fought the flames from a defensive position. No other lives were lost in the fire.

READ MORE: Fallen firefighter remembered for service, dedication to family & community

An Internal Safety Review Board comprised of uniform personnel from the HCDFRS, neighboring fire departments, and outside agencies immediately began an investigation into Flynn’s death, HCDFRS said in a statement.

“Our fire department has implemented many changes since experiencing this tragedy last July, such as: continuing to increase the staffing levels on our front-line engines to meet the national recommendation of four, establishing a radio committee and self-contained breathing apparatus committee to review current functionality and procedures, and continuing our practical training programs such as live fire acquired structure training and fire-ground survival,” said HCDFRS Fire Chief Christine M. Uhlhorn. I thank the ISRB for their hard work over the past eleven months on this thorough and concise report and I am committed to reviewing all their recommendations as well as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommendations when released. I am open to making the necessary changes that will impact the safety of our firefighters and paramedics.”

The report included such recommendations as:

  • Establishing a clear and consistent Philosophy of Command throughout the department
  • New, more stringent training based on competency, hands-on experience in realistic conditions and emphasizing “practical error prevention and error trapping”
  • Enhancing communication for on the ground units and creating a closed-loop radio communication
  • Enhancing the accountability of on the ground fire crews
  • Growing the ability of officers within the department to establish incident strategy and make sure all involved departments can execute effective tactics

“Our fire department has implemented many changes since experiencing this tragedy last July, such as: continuing to increase the staffing levels on our front-line engines to meet the national recommendation of four, establishing a radio committee and self-contained breathing apparatus committee to review current functionality and procedures, and continuing our practical training programs such as live fire acquired structure training and fire-ground survival. I thank the ISRB for their hard work over the past eleven months on this thorough and concise report and I am committed to reviewing all their recommendations as well as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommendations when released.”

An extensive breakdown of the review board’s report and findings can be seen online.