Philadelphia News & Search
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel says he doesn’t disagree with anything in a federal report released Monday that cited faulty equipment, late backup, and crew separation as factors in the line-of-duty death of firefighter Joyce Craig in 2014.
“We stand before you today with heavy hearts, focused minds and eyes forward to honor the life and memory of a fallen hero and those who came before her by embracing this opportunity for introspection and, more importantly, for action,” Thiel said at a news conference Tuesday at the Fire Administration Building.
Flanked by members of the Fire Department’s leadership council, Thiel agreed with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report, which cited several factors in Craig’s death. NIOSH said an outdated hose on Craig’s self-contained breathing apparatus burned through, causing her to lose a large amount of air quickly. Firefighters are also supposed to stick together in teams of at least two, but Craig became separated from her crew and they left the building without her, thinking she already had escaped, the report said.
Craig, a mother of two and the first female Philadelphia firefighter to die in the line of duty, lost her life in a rowhouse fire in West Oak Lane on Dec. 9, 2014, after radioing five times for help, the report said.
“It’s very clear from these reports that she died as she lived, a warrior to the end,” Thiel said.
Thiel said maintaining contact with fellow firefighters inside a burning house is not always easy.
“You can’t see anything in a fire. This is not a television show … You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face,” he said. “So the idea that one will maintain contact the entire time inside of an active firefight, it’s great, but it’s really challenging to implement in practice. So it’s not uncommon for crews to separate.”
The federal report also said that it took 21 minutes for a “Rapid Intervention Team” used for search and rescue to arrive because the ladder that was supposed to respond was on another call so a ladder unfamiliar with the area’s streets was assigned to the fire.
Thiel said the department already has made several changes recommended in the report, including upgrading its breathing equipment to the latest national standards. But he said making all of the changes “will be a long-term effort.”
Another change the department has made is assigning dedicated field-safety officers to all platoons. The department is also undergoing training that was recommended in the report and has hired additional firefighters and EMTs.
Thiel said many of the recommended changes in the report “reinforce some of my ideas when I came” into his role as fire commissioner in May 2016.
Philadelphia News & Search