Thursday, June 28, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — A state agency has cited the Baltimore fire department for “intentionally” and “knowingly” violating safety rules that resulted in “a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm” would occur during training exercise that killed a fire cadet.

Racheal Wilson died Feb. 9 when she was trapped in a row house that had been deliberately set on fire as part of a training exercise.

After a five-month probe, Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation on Tuesday charged the department with 33 safety violations. It also said two fire commanders were responsible for the poor planning and execution of the fire, or live burn, that killed Miss Wilson and injured two others.

The report did not list names, but it blamed some of the violations on the burn’s safety officer and its instructor in charge. The fire department had previously identified the two as Battalion Chief Kenneth Hyde Sr., who has been fired, and Lt. Joseph Crest, who was suspended and is facing termination.

The charging document was obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

The citations were the first time that an outside agency found fault with the fire department’s actions in the incident.

All 33 violations were described as “serious,” meaning that there was “a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result,” according to definitions of the violations listed in the charging document.

Of those, 17 were also labeled as “willful,” meaning that “the employer committed an intentional and knowing violation” or acted with “plain indifference to or in careless disregard of employer responsibilities.”

According to the charging document, eight separate fires were set by three persons in the row house. The safety officer stood outside.

National standards state that only one person should set the a fire and that only one blaze should be set at a time.

The document also stated that firefighters and trainees inside the burning building were not wearing proper breathing or safety gear, and that when the fire burned out of control, an instructor abandoned four trainees. And it said there was no water reserve available for the burn.

The fire department must submit by Monday a written response showing how it will correct the violations.

Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr.’s spokesman, Rick Binetti, said Tuesday that the department has taken steps to fix the safety issues described by the labor department, including ending the practice of staging live burns outside of its academy grounds.

“The biggest thing is that live burns in acquired structures are indefinitely put on hold,” Mr. Binetti told the Sun.

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