What are the risks of firefighting training? Firefighters weigh in after deadly SF accident

Stephanie Sierra Image
Friday, October 9, 2020
Experts explain risks of firefighter training
According to one California firefighter, the two most common exercises that result in firefighter injuries or deaths are live-fire training or escape route drills.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A small memorial is growing near the corner of 19th and Shotwell in honor of Jason Cortez, a beloved San Francisco firefighter who died during a training accident Wednesday morning.

The 13-year-veteran of the San Francisco Fire Dept. is described as a loving father, dedicated husband, and fearless firefighter and paramedic.

RELATED: SF firefighter dies after falling multiple stories during training incident, SFFD officials say

CAL-OSHA confirmed Cortez died after falling three stories off a high rise that caused severe head injuries.

ABC7 spoke with Justin Moore, a California firefighter and founder of FirstInSafety, an organization that studies safety protocols for first responders. Moore consults with fire agencies across the country.

"These training facilities are very well designed with engineered safety precautions as well as administrative barriers in order to lower the risk," Moore explained. "But, no matter how many administrative barriers...there is always going to be a certain margin of risk."

According to Moore, the two most common exercises that result in firefighter injuries or deaths are live-fire training or escape route drills.

"Those training evolutions involve them coming out of a window, coming onto a ladder, and escaping out of a window onto a ladder," said Moore.

VIDEO: Paying respects to late SF firefighter, Jason Cortez

A San Francisco firefighter has died after falling three stories during training, SFFD officials said. Jason Cortez, 42, was a firefighter paramedic, husband, father and son of a retired SFFD firefighter.

A retired firefighter told ABC7 another risk in those situations is flowing water that makes the escape floors wet.

"It can be very dangerous," he said. "Because is the intensity of the training and the environment of the training."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 48 firefighters have died so far this year. Three of those deaths were due to falls.

As a preventative measure, CAL-OSHA requires a safety officer should be assigned in certain cases involving dangerous hazards.

RELATED: San Francisco Fire Department dealing with grief after firefighter dies during training exercise

Stephanie: "What hazards would have to present in order to require having a safety officer be in a reasonable proximity to the scene of the accident?"

"Live fire training is very specific, if we are producing smoke and fire that meets that requirement...then we would be required to have a safety officer on scene," he said.

It's unclear if a safety officer was required or present during Cortez's accident.

ABC7 asked CAL-OSHA, but the agency could only confirm a comprehensive investigation is underway. Under statutory law, CAL-OSHA has up to six months to complete this investigation.