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Incident Name:
Date:  4/7/2000
Personnel:  James Ted Griffith
Age:  25
Agency/Organization:  Winterset Volunteer Fire Department, 101 East Jefferson, Winterset, Iowa 50273
Position: firefighter

Summary: 

Firefighter/Training Officer Griffith and members of his department were called to the scene of a grass fire. The fire started when salvage workers ignited grass and nearby wood as they worked to dismantle two old, rusting 12,000-gallon elevated fuel storage tanks. The grass fire was extinguished, and the salvage workers decided to use a blowtorch to cut a small hole near the drain of the tank that had already been pulled to the ground. The hole was intended to allow the attachment of a tow chain, which would be used to pull the tank to a salvage yard. As the hole was being made with a blowtorch, the tank emitted a hissing sound and suddenly exploded. Firefighter/Training Officer Griffith was killed instantly when he was struck by flying debris. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt trauma. The top of the tank, which was torn away in the explosion and weighed over 900 pounds, flew over 114 feet before coming to rest. A salvage worker was also killed, eight firefighters and a civilian received injuries. Analysis of the tank contents revealed that the tank contained residual gasoline and other petroleum products.

 

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 Winterset Volunteer Fire Department, 101 East Jefferson, Winterset, Iowa 50273

 

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • NIOSH: Fire Fighter Dies After the Tanker Truck He was Driving Strikes a Utility Pole and Overturns While Responding to a Grass Fire-Kentucky

    NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar incidents, fire departments should

    • establish, implement, and enforce standard operating procedures (SOPs) on emergency vehicle operation and the use of seat belts in all emergency vehicles
    • ensure that the apparatus chassis is adequate to carry the weight of the unequipped apparatus, the water and tank, hose load, personnel weight, ground ladders, and the designed miscellaneous equipment allowance
    • establish a vehicle maintenance checklist so that vehicle deficiencies can be identified and ensure that any vehicle found to be unsafe is placed out of service until repaired
  • USFA Memorial Database: James Ted Griffith

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