2 Firefighters Suspended In Death Of Trainee

Wednesday, February 14th 2007, 9:11 am
By: News On 6

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Two Baltimore fire officials have been suspended without pay after the death of a trainee who collapsed during a live-fire exercise at a building that was set ablaze.

Division Chief of Training Kenneth Hyde and Lead Firefighter Instructor Lt. Joseph Crest were suspended Tuesday, the fire department said in a statement. An investigation showed fire safety procedures were not followed, authorities said.

On Monday, the department said it will stop setting buildings on fire for training until the probe is complete, and other training practices will be re-evaluated.

Racheal Wilson, 29, collapsed during an exercise Friday and died at a hospital. Two other firefighters were injured when they went to Wilson's aid.

Wilson, one of 24 recruits participating in the exercise, was on the third floor with two other trainees responsible for punching holes to ventilate the building. A fire had been set on the second floor.

The cause of Wilson's death has not been determined.

The (Baltimore) Sun reported Wednesday that federal standards were violated because more than one fire was started in the house. Baltimore Fire Officers Union President Capt. Stephan G. Fugate said union officials met Monday with Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr.

In that meeting, Fugate told the Sun, he learned the department didn't follow two federal regulations because at least two and as many as five separate fires were set, but only one fire is allowed.

Goodwin has said that a safety official was present, a second fire hose was held by an instructor and several experienced firefighters were there to help cadets who ran into trouble.

While the fire department has a training center that includes a tower and other buildings, Baltimore has been training cadets with fires set in dwellings since the 1970s, The Sun reported.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a fire department spokesman, said training in buildings owed by the city is important because Baltimore's narrow rowhouses present a challenge that cannot be reproduced at the training grounds.