Report Number: 10-0000704
Report Date: 04/12/2010
Brackets  denote reviewer de-identification.
On [date deleted], E  responded to a car fire at [address deleted]. Upon arrival, the vehicle had flames showing from the engine compartment. Firefighters from E  pulled a booster line and extinguished the fire. After the fire had been extinguished for several minutes, firefighters were attempting to force open the hood using a halligan tool. While working at the front of the car, one of the firefighters was struck by a hydraulic piston that held the hood of the car up when raised. The hood was still in the closed position when the piston ejected out through the water channel. The firefighter was very fortunate to have not been seriously injured. The projectile passed through the black padding on the bottom of his SCBA harness and into the outer shell of his turnout coat. If the firefighter had been standing at a different position or not been wearing full PPE, the outcome could have been much more serious. Numerous research and training articles have been produced to emphasize the dangers of working around hydraulic cylinders and other modern automobile design features. In this case, the hydraulic cylinder for the hood was not exposed since the hood had not yet been raised and, consequently, its presence was not confirmed. The heat from the engine fire caused the cylinder to explode from internal pressure and follow the path of least resistance through the gap between the hood and fender. The fact that the webbing on the SCBA frame and the turnout coat was pierced by the exploding cylinder is an indication of the force of this type of event. Firefighters should be vigilant in recognizing the possibility of the presence of hydraulic cylinders when operating at vehicle fires.
Firefighters should assume that hydraulic cylinders are present at all vehicle fires. Appropriate measures for vehicle approach and adequate fire streams should be initiated. Most importantly is that firefighters must wear proper protective gear in the form of approved self contained breathing equipment and approved personal protective equipment when operating at vehicle fires. The specifics of incidents such as this should be emphasized in the post incident analysis and communicated and integrated into training materials and exercises.
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