Equipment Failure May Have Caused Tulsa Firefighter's Injuries

Tuesday, January 3rd 2012, 10:34 pm
By: News On 6

The Tulsa Fire Department is investigating how a firefighter was injured fighting a New Year's Eve fire that was intentionally set.

The department is looking into whether his breathing apparatus malfunctioned.

01/01/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Firefighter Injured, Brought Back To Life In Arson

James O'Neal was nearly killed but brought back to life at the scene of that fire and he'll be in the hospital for several more days.

O'Neal was the one who kicked down the door of a burning house in North Tulsa. He began search and rescue, when suddenly he needed those very things from his fellow firefighters.

Moments after that call for help, firefighters found the 35-year-old without a pulse and not breathing. Life support crews were able to revive the veteran firefighter.

O'Neal was breathing smoke - instead of air - and the Tulsa fire department is trying to figure out why.

"This is our SCBA unit, which stands for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus," said Tulsa Firefighter Stan May, who demonstrated the device that gives you thirty minutes of breathable air.

"The mask is designed to withstand about 1200 or 1300 degrees," Stan May said.

A tube that locks into place on the mask is the focus of TFD's investigation.

"We're trying to see if maybe one of the locks broke or why it came loose or if that's even the piece that came loose," Stan May said.

O'Neals' mask was losing air and sounded like this when firefighters found him.

"Of course he could have caught in on something and pulled it off, then had to put it back on while he was in there, which was enough time to breathe in enough smoke that knocked him out," May said.

The department plans to tear apart O'Neal's mask to piece together what happened.

O'Neal was still in intensive care as of Tuesday night, but he's off a ventilator and has been able to talk with his family.

If you know who set the fire, call 918-596-2776. Your tip could earn you a $3,500 cash reward.