LAFD Performs Confined Space Rescue at Atwater Village Medical Firm

Friday, January 21, 2011 |

On Friday, January 21, 2011 at 3:57 AM, 10 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 6 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 1 Heavy Rescue, 1 Urban Search and Rescue Unit, 1 Hazardous Materials Team, 2 EMS Battalion Captains, 4 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams and 1 Division Chief Officer Command Team, a total of 84 Los Angeles Fire Department personnel under the direction of Battalion Chief Craig Yoder, responded to a Confined Space Rescue at 4501 West Colorado Boulevard in the Atwater Village area of Los Angeles.

Responding to a report of persons unconscious within the 269,000 square-foot Baxter Healthcare Corporation blood plasma fractionation facility, first arriving Los Angeles Firefighters swiftly established a perimeter, command post and safe staging location as they donned protective gear to enter the facility.

Joined quickly by additional firefighters, and with an LAFD Hazardous Materials Squad and LAFD Urban Search & Rescue Team on the way, firefighters discovered and rescued an adult male found pulseless and non-breathing.

Nearby the man, but trapped within the confines of a cylindrical vessel, firefighters discovered a pair of his coworkers unconscious.

According to witnesses, the three men had been cleaning and/or maintaining high-technology medical equipment when they were suddenly overcome. The exact sequence in which the men collapsed has yet to be confirmed.

As LAFD personnel moved the first lifeless worker to an area of safety for advanced medical care, firefighters utilized strength and ingenuity to safely extract the pair of unconscious men through a 24" diameter portal atop the permanently mounted four-foot-tall by five-foot-wide tank in which they were imperiled.

The two critically ill men rescued from the tank, and their gravely ill colleague - who had his pulse and blood pressure restored by the skilled effort of LAFD Paramedics - were rushed alive to a trio of nearby hospitals. Though Los Angeles Police Officers later informed LAFD that one of the men had died, it was not immediately clear which had succumbed.

While LAFD Hazardous Materials experts determined a significant presence of ethanol in the area where the men collapsed, it was not immediately clear what role the substance had played, in whole or in part, in the worker's demise or his colleague's being rendered unconscious.

No other employee or responder injuries were reported.

Pursuant of protocol, Investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and Cal/OSHA responded to the scene to commence their respective death and injury investigations. The aforementioned agencies will be working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner to positively identify the decedent, and to determine the precise cause, time and manner of his death.

Questions regarding the presence, need or injured men's use of safety equipment and approved worksite procedures remain within the purview of Cal/OSHA officials.


Submitted by Erik Scott and Brian Humphrey, Spokesmen
Los Angeles Fire Department


Anonymous said...

Is it true that the ambulances used for this call were later called back for decon. After taking the patients to the ER and changing crews??

If so, was the lack of decon an oversite by the crew on scene?

If no decon was needed, why were the ambulances called back to the scene.

Is it also true that the LAFD is closing several HAZMAT companies?

This poster has it on good word that there have been several lapse in the LAFD's HAZMAT program. Does the LAFD feel that a well trained and staffed HAZMAT program is no longer needed?

I also have it on good word that the LAPD's HAZMAT program is expanding and that the team members take the training and importance of HAZMAT to the next level. Does the LAFD plan to abandon the role of HAZMAT to the LAPD?

Are you ready to state that the LAFD is doing all it can do to protect the people in LA from a HAZMAT event from industry or attack?

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 7:40,

You offer a multitude of thoughts and concerns, but there is one that deserves to be debunked forthwith: the notion of (and we quote) an "LAFD plan to abandon the role of HAZMAT to the LAPD" (or anyone for that matter).

There are clearly many aspects to managing Hazardous Materials issues and incidents, and the decades-long symbiotic relationship between LAFD and LAPD HazMat responders has been an efficient and productive example for our nation and beyond - especially in the area of environmental crime.

That much said, like our response to medical emergencies, technical rescues and yes, the seemingly 'routine' home fire, the roles, capabilities and responses of the LAFD have and will evolve over time.

Please know that I am not personally aware of the 'plan' you infer, but welcome (and will be happy to arrange for) you to speak directly to any member of our Administration up to and including the Fire Chief himself, to put most if not all of your concerns to rest.

In the likelihood you are a Los Angeles resident, you can and should also bring personal concerns to the attention of your Mayor, City Council member and Fire Commission, as it is they and *not* unilaterally the Fire Chief, who establish goals and provide the key resources necessary for us to get the job done - a task that has become increasingly hard this past year.

If (as I sense) there is an even greater likelihood that you are on the job, you must take full advantage of your Union or Association to affirm or debunk any concerns, especially those you mention which fall under the formal meet and confer process.

If you've been following the news, you know that our City's budget shortfall is staggering, and has led to cutbacks and adjustments across the City landscape; including at the LAFD, where all but one of our Hazardous Material Squads is now 'cross-staffed' by certified personnel with other full-time assignments at those Fire Stations.

In regard to the incident on Colorado Boulevard, it occurred across a shift change, and many (but not all) of the unit movements and returns-to-scene were related to personnel asked to make on-site relief, address the needs of colleagues and Incident Command as well as speak with LAPD and Cal/OSHA Investigators, etc.

The matter of decontamination shows in our log as being addressed on more than one occassion by the Incident Commander. Rather than attempt to interpret each of your questions and replies as a "man-in-the-middle", I will encourage you to engage in direct dialogue with the Incident Commander of record, Battalion Chief Craig Yoder. You can reach his office directly at (213) 485-6272.

I hope this information helps.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Michael A. Westhoff said...

First and foremost, I would like to thank you Brian for answering anonymous in the most professional of fashions, but that is to be expected from you as I have known you for over 25 years and you always conduct yourself that way.

I have never posted in a blog but as someone just this morning informed me of this, I felt the need.

Anonymous continues to state that they have "on good word" information concerning the LAFD Hazmat Program, so I would like to add my thoughts to your blog.

1. The context of "Lapses"

Yes, there are lapses. There are lapses in every single incident that we ever respond too. The minute that we have no lapses is the minute that we can call ourselves perfect. It may vary from the smallest lapse to a glaring Life Safety mistake. Unfortunately, it happens. Anyone can easily pick out the smallest of issues and make something more out of them then needs to be, but sometimes there are issues that absolutely and immediately need to be addressed and rectified. Because we are in the Life Saving business you hope and pray that the men and women that you have trained to respond to these incidents carry with them every possible advantage, with knowledge, training, equipment and overall, Common Sense.

In that same text there is a question as to whether "a well trained and staffed HAZMAT program is no longer needed."

Brian, I believe you have already answered that question but I would like to add to it as well. I don't have it "on good word" I have it on face to face, first hand knowledge speaking to the individuals, that everything that can or could be done to retain our staffing levels has been done. We are in dire times, and everyone is taking a hit. "Staffing" is a component that has been altered due to budgetary issues. We as a program are on a daily basis trying to resume our staffing levels. "Training" on the other hand can be done at several levels; at a bare minimum the morning "Lineup" should include a drill, scenario or just a think session concerning Hazmat. It’s not a novel concept, and should be done at every Fire Station across the globe; maybe not Hazmat but it should include some type of fire problem. Our staffing issues have impacted our ability to get our Hazmat Task Forces together for Company operations. Only 1 Hazmat Task Force is in the MCP, the other 3 are not "Closed", these Squads are just not staffed, but the benefit to that is that they are not in the MCP and can keep the balance of their trained personnel together on a daily basis. Meaning, they are training LAFD Hazmat Co. Operations within themselves.

continued in next reply...

Michael A. Westhoff said...


2. LAPD Hazmat has in fact expanded their manpower. They have gone from 4 to 8 and back down to 7. Also not" On Good Word" but personal knowledge considering I speak to them every single day.

Anonymous, if you want to live your life by "rumor control" go for it, but let me tell you, life is a whole lot easier if you gather the information first hand and then process it. We work in conjunction with LAPD Hazmat, as we do with LACo Health, Wastewater Management, LACo Sheriffs and Fire and a whole bunch of other entities. My simple suggestion to you would be: Know what the LAFD Hazmat job is, and then look at what the other entities job is. You will come up with your own answers.

"Anonymous" if you are in-fact on the job: Become part of the solution. It’s easy to sit in the bleachers. Brian gave you some thoughts of how you could help. I will add to them. Be pro-active and make something out of bad times and make sure you and your crews are as prepared and trained as you can possibly be.

I have been in the LAFD Hazmat Program for 25 years. We very-well may have seen better times, but "we" as individuals do whatever we can to make the best out of it.

As I stated before, I have spoken to the Administration about our issue, which is not limited to the Fire Chief, Deputy Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs, numerous Battalion Chiefs and even individuals from the Mayor's staff. They do know our issues, and they are concerned and work daily to rectify.

One final note:


There is a reason that I receive phone calls on a regular basis from across the Nation on the topic of "What is LAFD doing in case of". We as a program are still at the forefront, not to minimize other departments because I call them as-well and as a Country we try to formulate solutions.

I will not be Anonymous and anyone can contact me with any issue they have concern with in regards to LAFD’s Hazmat Program.

Michael A. Westhoff
Los Angeles City Fire Department
Fire Station 4 C

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Brother Michael,

Thank you for taking the time to write, and for the kind words. I am humbled and feel unworthy of your praise.

Please know that a blog technical matter forced me to truncate your message, and I apologize for any formatting errors that may have occurred. Your comments however, appear in full, albeit in two parts.

Your willingness to stand confidently and identifiably by your words, speaks volumes of your character and integrity.

I am indeed hopeful that Anonymous 7:40 or anyone who has a question about LAFD Hazardous Materials response, will contact you directly.

Again, thank you for writing with the same honor, passion and purpose that you offer the citizens of Los Angeles each and every duty day.

Fraternally Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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