TFD Investigating Possible Failure Of Breathing Mask

Monday, April 25th 2016, 6:11 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa Fire Department launched an investigation into the possible failure of a breathing mask after a firefighter took in smoke at an east Tulsa business fire Friday.

Fire Captain John Smith left the scene on a stretcher as a precaution, but the department said he's fine now. He left the building immediately after smelling smoke inside the mask - a sign his air supply in compromised.

"Something’s gone wrong, and it may be your fault, it may be the breathing apparatus’ fault, we don't know. But he did the right thing - he turned around immediately and left because, we put these on because you're not supposed to be breathing that stuff,” Captain Stan May with TFD said.

The incident Friday - with firefighters in unusually toxic smoke at a chemical fire - prompted the fire department to ask for immediate testing by the manufacturer. They'll download data recorded by the mask to see if something failed or if it was just a poor fit on the firefighter.

4/22/2016 Related Story: Firefighter Injured In Incident At East Tulsa Industrial Company

"Maybe it was as simple as the seal broke on his face for a second or two and he got it that way; this should help us determine that," May said.

The fire department bought more than 400 new sets of masks and tanks 18 months ago over concerns the old ones would fail.

3/10/2015 Related Story: New Equipment Gives Tulsa Firefighters More Time For Rescue

A firefighter’s mask has to work perfectly every time, so the incident Friday is being taken seriously; it’s the first time a problem was reported.

“Our fault, the machines fault, we want to know what happened and how it happened so we can prevent it in the future,” said May.

To speed up the testing, Monday, the department decided to drive the mask to a lab in Oklahoma City, hoping to get some answers, quickly.