EUREKA SPRINGS (KFMS) — An investigation into a Eureka Springs firefighter’s injury showed that mechanical failure was the issue.
Rod Wasson was injured while working a fire on Aug. 29, sustaining respiratory injuries and spending weeks in a burn unit.
Eureka Springs Fire and EMS interviewed Wasson and tested his equipment to determine what caused the injury. In the report, they found that the self-contained breathing apparatus that Wasson was using that day failed three counts of testing, so Wasson removed his mask.
The biggest issue was that it didn’t provide enough air volume for heavy respiration, the report says. It passed at the low-level respiratory test, which provides enough air for a firefighter at rest — not performing exerting activities such as firefighting.
Adding to the issue, the SCBA’s low-air alarm was also set below the minimum level to trigger an alert, and the transfer switch between the low and high pressure stages was also below the minimum level.
Wasson said that he felt like he was suffocating when he entered the structure. He tried to exit, but couldn’t find the door. He removed his face mask, dropped to the floor and called for help.
Another issue was that Wasson’s equipment was pieced together from other firefighters. This is a routine practice in the department for part-time personnel, who don’t have their own assigned gear.
The report recommended that Eureka Springs immediately replace their SCBAs, which are outdated models. Additionally, the department must perform medical testing and proper mask fit testing for everyone who routinely wears fire gear.
The report also recommends that each firefighter gets a personal set of protection equipment.