On February 18th, 2020, a fire occurred in the City of Porterville Public Library. During the initial minutes of fire department operations, while searching for a reported victim, two members of the first arriving engine company became disoriented and tragically lost their lives in the line of duty.
On April 29th, the Fire Chief issued a Delegation of Authority to a Serious Accident Review Team (SART), authorizing an investigation into the incident. The Chief stated, “It is my hope that the lessons to be learned from this incident might benefit the entire fire service and result in a safer standard of operations for the entire industry.”
The SART timeline spanned a nine-month period, utilizing over 1,000 personnel hours. The process included the conducting of interviews, analysis of dispatch audios, CAD information, helmet camera footage, body camera footage, review of policies and procedures, research of laws, mandates, industry standards, and best practices, as well as regular meetings to comprehend, analyze, organize, and assemble the data into report form.
Early in the SART process, the team became aware that a significant number of potential factors were, once again, related to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fire Fighter Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) contributing factors of Firefighter line-of-duty deaths. Consistently the top ten contributing factors, as outlined in their most recent report, are:
1. Medical screening
2. Fitness and wellness program
4. Medical clearance
5. Standard Operating Procedures/Standard Operating Guidelines (SOPs/SOGs)
6. Incident command
7. Strategy and tactics
9. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
While each of the previously listed contributing factors are significant, and continue to remain a problem in the fire service, the following were the most prevalent during the Library Incident: Training, Standard Operating Procedures/Standard Operating Guidelines (SOPs/SOGs), Incident Command, Strategy and Tactics, Communications, and Staffing.