KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The deaths of two Kansas City, Missouri, firefighters during a wall collapse last year was partly due to the department’s culture of aggressive fire suppression, the department concluded in an internal report released Tuesday.
The 71-page report also cites a loose management style as possible factors in the October 2015 deaths of firefighter John Mesh and ladder truck driver Larry Leggio, The Kansas City Star reported. Two other firefighters were seriously injured but survived.
The firefighters were in an alley to protect a fire engine when a wall collapsed, killing 43-year-old Leggio and 39-year-old Mesh, the report said. The men were within feet of the wall roughly six minutes after commanders ordered a collapse zone established around the unstable, three-story apartment and commercial building, meaning those close to the burning building were supposed to retreat.
Industry standards suggest that all fire personnel immediately exit a collapse zone — typically an area 1½ times the building’s height — once one is ordered, unless remaining there is an attempt to save someone’s life. That wasn’t the case in this matter, given that the building’s occupants had been evacuated.
Kansas City fire officials have said the firefighters in the alley were trying to protect a grocery.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is independently investigating.
Thu Hong Nguyen, who operated a nail salon in the building, is charged with arson and two counts of second-degree murder in the blaze. She has pleaded not guilty.
While citing the department’s aggressive fire attack as a strength, the report found that “cultural norms that work against the safety of firefighters are and can potentially be disastrous and should not be tolerated.”
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