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Report: Inadequate training led to Fla. LODD


Photo Volusia County Fire Services
Firefighter John Curry

By FireRescue1 Staff

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida firefighter’s death during a tree-felling exercise was the result of inadequate training and an unsafe workplace, according to state investigators.

A report released Tuesday found Firefighter John Curry was among members of a wildland fire operations team who were only given a shortened version of recommended training before cutting down a pine tree.

Firefighter Curry was crushed by the falling tree as he ran along a designated escape route.

The report by the state’s Bureau of Fire Standards and Training found “inexperienced and untrained trainees were placed in positions they were not prepared to perform.”

Firefighter Curry was one of several new members of the Volusia County Fire Services’ ‘Firewalker Team’ who took part in a classroom session on the morning of the accident in Nov. 2007.

But the class, which featured a power saw safety video as part of a National Wildfire Coordinating Group program, only lasted for two hours — half the recommended duration.

When the actual tree-felling began, both the “sawyer” (chain saw operator) and Firefighter Curry — who served as the swamper/look-out — had no previous formal training.

Investigators found the cuts in the tree appeared to have been made in such a manner that the tree had a “hang point” rather than a “hinge” as described in the training video.

This caused it to turn counter-clockwise as it began to come down, causing it to move 135 degrees away from its intended fall.

Firefighter Curry, 30, left the sawyer at the base of the tree and was struck from behind as he got to the end of the escape route.

The report said there was “no lesson plan, no schematic of the area with placement of trees and escape routes, no real designation of responsibilities, and lack of an operational overseer.”

The bureau issued a notice of violation to county Fire Chief Jim Tauber for failure to provide adequate training and failing to provide a safe workplace.

In a safety violations report attached to the investigative report, the county is also being required to provide training commensurate to each firefighter and supervisor’s task.

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