Ineffective ventilation techniques and insufficient training contributed to the injuries of eight Prince George’s County firefighters last May, investigators said.
The Fireand EMS team responded to a Forestville strip mall for the report of a gas leak. When they arrived, they found a fire along the roofline and on an electric meter.
Rescuers successfully evacuated the civilians in the seven affected businesses before the blast sent fire and debris flying. Injuries ranged from third-degree burns to a sprained ankle.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) completed an investigation following the explosion. According to their report, an earlier explosion could have happened because of operational error.
The team set up a positive pressure ventilation fan at the front of one of the stores. But according to the report, with that much natural gas present in the store, the fan could have actually caused an explosion. The fan, however, was not functioning properly.
Investigators also reported that firefighters attempted to cut off power to the building by switching individual breakers off. However, the report says they should have cut off the main disconnect.
The NIOSH offered a list of suggestions to minimize the risk of similar future events:
Fire Chief Eugene Jones says he will require volunteer and career firefighters to read the report and commence drills on their findings. He also asked his command staff to review the recommendations for further advice and compliance.