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Incident Name: Taylor Fire (Edna Complex)
Date: October 5, 1998, 1845 hrs
Personnel: Thomas Oscar Wall
Age: 44
Agency/Organization: Orange County Fire Authority, CA
Position: firefighter

Summary: On October 5, 1998 Captain Thomas Wall, Orange County Fire suffered a heart attack on the Taylor Fire (Edna Complex) while working on the roof of a home that had caught fire from burning embers during the Santa Ana wind event. The Taylor Fire covered a geographic area of 27,000 acres and burned residences in the wildland/urban interface area. The Captain had been fighting the fire for approximately 10 hours when he collapsed. In spite of receiving CPR and ALS, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The death certificate listed acute myocardial infarction.

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Maps

Taylor Fire (Edna Complex), near Calimesa, CA

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • US Social Security Death Index: Thomas O Wall
  • NIOSH Report: Fire Captain Dies as a Result of a Cardiac Arrest While Fighting a Wildland/Urban Interface Fire - California

    Other agencies have proposed a three-pronged strategy for reducing the risk of heart attacks among fire fighters. This strategy consists of (1) minimizing physical stress on fire fighters; (2) screening to identify and subsequently rehabilitate high-risk individuals; and (3) encouraging increased individual physical capacity. The following issues are relevant to this fire department:

    • Fire fighters should have annual medical evaluations to determine their medical ability to perform duties without presenting a significant risk to the safety and health of themselves or others.
    • As a minimum, municipal fire fighters in California must be provided with medical evaluations to determine their fitness to wear self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
    • The Department should reinforce the requirement that personnel shall wear only the protective clothing issued by, or approved by, the employing fire department.
    • The Department should review standard operating procedures (and related training) regarding self-treatment of chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Excerpt from Protective Clothing for Wildland Fire Suppression ...

    Protective Clothing for Wildland Fire Suppression

    The article that this was transcribed from is no longer online -- was at tinhelmet.com under archives_files/mauney_wildland.pdf

    The following portion was apparently a MTDC review of deaths of firefighters (1985-1999) wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) not designed for wildland fire conditions.

    The following has info on firefighters that died... Ch 8 (pp 26-27) heart attack and heat stroke fatalities.

    "The following individual firefighter fatality information was obtained from NFPA, NIOSH, and OSHA investigation reports as well as personal interviews with department personnel."

    6.2 Mid-West and West Coast Fatalities

    (snip)

    Captain Thomas Wall with the Orange County Fire Authority, CA, collapsed and died of a heart attack on October 5, 1998, while operating at a wildland fire. Witnesses testified he was wearing structural PPE.

  • MTDC: 1993 - Components of Wildland Fire Personal Protective Equiipment (PPE)
  • Thomas Wall's name, death date and brief bio are included in the USFA Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study, published April 2002 (2,888 K pdf)

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Contributors to this article:  Mellie

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