The recent injury of a Eureka Springs, Arizona firefighter may help FDNY personnel looking to avoid respiratory injuries at fire ground. According to a September 29 news report from KSFM, Rod Wasson had to spend weeks in a burn unit after removing the mask of his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while fighting a fire on August 29.
An investigation found that Wasson’s SCBA failed three counts of testing. It functioned adequately for low-level respiration, providing enough oxygen for a firefighter at rest. But the oxygen flow was not adequate for a firefighter exerting himself while fighting a fire. Lack of oxygen led Wasson to feel as if he were suffocating. He tried to leave the burning structure, but could not find the exit. He removed his mask, dropped to the floor and called for help.
There are several issues with Wasson’s equipment. The SCBA’s low-air alarm was set below the minimum level necessary to trigger an alert. The transfer switch between the low and high pressure states was also below the minimum level. Furthermore, Wasson’s apparatus was pieced together from other units assigned to other firefighters, and the SCBA model itself was outdated.
The incident underscores the importance of having fully functional equipment. Leadership at firehouses should conduct regular inspections and testing of equipment. But in the absence of proactive leadership, firefighters must take the initiative to guard against smoke inhalation injuries.
The FDNY has a duty to provide firefighters with properly functioning equipment. When the department fails to do so, and that failure results in a firefighter’s injury, the firefighter can take legal action against the city. To learn more about your rights after an injury, call Barasch & McGarry at [ln::phone] or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation.