North Carolina Report Cites Fire Department after March Deaths

August 8, 2008

A North Carolina investigation says officials improperly allowed a firefighter who died to enter a burning building alone during a lumberyard blaze that killed him and another fireman.

In a report issued Aug. 6, the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor also said it fined the city of Salisbury $6,563.

Firefighters Justin Monroe, 19, and Victor Isler, 40, were killed in the fire that destroyed much of Salisbury Millwork. Damages were estimated at $2 million.

Monroe entered the building alone in violation of state rules, the report said.

But inspector Paul Sullivan said the department “did much more right than wrong” in handling the fire on March 7.

The fire department also failed to be sure that firefighters stayed in visual and voice contact during the blaze, the report said.

Monroe was sent out of the burning warehouse to tell commanders that his team was well, although their radios weren’t working. He then went back into the building.

“Ultimately, our regulations fall upon the employer to ensure the people stay in pairs,” Sullivan said, adding that more than one person knew Monroe entered the building alone.

The fire department also was cited because respirators didn’t fit properly and because firefighters entered the burning building before being sure that two personnel were outside to monitor conditions.

The report recommended that the city retrain its firefighters on survival skills and the use of a “mayday” signal when life-threatening circumstances occur. The department also must look into radio problems and be sure they work.

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