View Full Version : California Captain Killed, Electrocuted by Power Line at House Fire
09-27-2005, 02:15 PM
California Captain Killed, Electrocuted by Power Line at House Fire
LOS GATOS, Calif. (AP) -- A captain with the Santa Clara County Fire Department died early Sunday after being electrocuted by a power line at the scene of a house fire.
Capt. Mark McCormack's on-duty death was the first in the department's 58-year history, according to a statement.
Firefighters were called to the scene at about 2:20 a.m. Sunday. Six residents were at home and escaped uninjured, fire officials said.
As McCormack helped fight the blaze, he touched a live electrical wire. He was treated at the scene and pronounced dead a short time later at an area hospital.
The fire department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the cause of the blaze and McCormack's death.
McCormack, 36, had been with the department since June 1999. He was promoted to captain in December 2004.
Memorial Service for Fire Captain Mark F. McCormack is as follows
Saturday, February 19, 2005 @ Time to be Announced HP Pavilion
525 W. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113
For additional information, please: Call the Information Hotline @ 408.378.4279 (staffed M-F 8:00-5:00 p.m. PST) or visit the Santa Clara County Fire Department website at www.sccfd.org
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to:
Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation
In Memory of Mark F. McCormack
665 3rd Street, Suite #345
San Francisco, CA 94107
Bank of the West
Mark F. McCormack Memorial Fund
2395 Winchester Blvd
Campbell, CA 95008
Donations can be mailed to this branch or any Bank of the West branch in your area. Please be sure to reference the account number on your check to ensure that your donation is posted to the correct account.
09-27-2005, 02:16 PM
California Fire Department Cited in Death of Captain
State: No Plan to Deal with Live Electrical Wires
The Santa Clara County Fire Department did not have a plan for dealing with live electrical wires at the scene of a fire, a serious failure that resulted in the death of fire Capt. Mark McCormack, according to state safety investigators.
In its first rebuke of a public safety agency in two years, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said the fire department committed three safety violations in connection with the Feb. 13 fire, and recommended the department be assessed $44,100 in fines.
Fire Chief Ben Lopes expressed ''surprise'' at the action, saying he was led to believe by Cal-OSHA officials that the investigation would not result in citations.
''I think we really need to sit down with them and walk through these issues,'' Lopes said Friday, adding that he is ''seriously considering'' an appeal.
McCormack's family could not be reached for comment.
McCormack, 36, became the department's first member to die in action when he brushed against a 12,000-volt live power line that had fallen during a fire in Los Gatos on Feb. 13.
The downed line was dangling from a pine tree, just inches from wet ground, when McCormack came into contact. Other firefighters apparently knew the line was hot and were waiting for a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew to arrive to shut the power off. It is unclear whether McCormack knew of the danger. His death rattled his department as well as firefighters across the state; some 3,000 people attended memorial services at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
Cal-OSHA found that the county fire department violated three safety regulations. Each was classified as a ''serious accident-related'' violation.
First, it said the department didn't have a written procedure within its illness and injury prevention program for how firefighters should handle hot power lines. Regulators recommended an $8,100 penalty for the oversight.
Lopes insisted the department's response plan is ''extensive.''
Cal-OSHA proposed an $18,000 fine for failing to erect barriers at the fire scene to keep people away from the downed power line.
''I'm not sure barriers are practical for emergency scene operations,'' Lopes responded.
Third, Cal-OSHA cited the department for not keeping firefighters away from an energized overhead power line. Regulators proposed an $18,000 fine for this violation.
Lopes responded that this may also be impractical if firefighters are to do their job effectively.
''As emergency responders, I'm not sure we can work outside of energized lines. We have procedures for how to do that safety,'' he said. While no loss of life is acceptable, he said, ''There are risks inherent to the job. Our job is to try to control or mitigate those risks to the best extent possible.''
The fire department has 15 working days to fix the cited problems and pay the penalties. Or it can, within the same time period, file an appeal with Cal-OSHA's appeal board. That appeals process, which includes a trial-like hearing before an administrative law judge, can take 18 months or even longer, said Cal-OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.
CAl-OSHA hasn't cited a public safety agency since May 2003, when it found the San Francisco Fire Department violated standard industry safety practices after a firefighter fell from a firetruck and died of brain injuries.
''For the most part, fire and rescue agencies are very safety conscious, and they do run a pretty ship-shape operation. So it's not very common,'' Fryer said.
Liz Kniss, chairwoman of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said she was ''shocked'' at the citations, ''not just because there hasn't been a fatality in more than 50 years, but beyond that, because Chief Lopes has done an exceptional job as chief. However, that doesn't mean that we could not in some way look at what happened and learn from it.''
A fire department investigation eventually determined that the fire was caused by an unattended candle or incense stick in a room that officials said was illegally added to the multimillion-dollar house.
09-27-2005, 02:18 PM
Cause of Death: Struck By
Nature of Death: Electrocution
Emergency Duty: Yes
Incident Date: 02/13/2005
Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
Incident Time: 02:20
Activity Type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
Death Date: 02/13/2005
Fixed Prop. Use: Residential
Fire Dept. Info:
Santa Clara County Fire Department
14700 Winchester Blvd.
Los Gatos , California 95032-1818
Chief: Benjamin F. Lopes
Captain McCormack was working outside of a residential structure fire when he apparently was struck by a fallen power line that was dangling across the driveway from a tree limb. McCormack was treated at the scene and pronounced dead a short time later at an area hospital. Funeral arrangements as follows: Memorial Service for Fire Captain Mark F. McCormack Saturday, February 19, 2005 @ 1:30pm, 525 W. Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113
Memorial Fund Info:
This information and more can be obtained at the SCCFD website - www.sccfd.org/mccormack.html - In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to: Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation In Memory of Mark F. McCormack, 665 3rd Street, Suite #345, San Francisco, CA 94107 or Bank of the West,* Mark F. McCormack Memorial Fund, Account #017-012-286, 2395 Winchester Blvd., Campbell, CA 95008 *Donations can be mailed to this branch or any Bank of the West branch in your area. Please reference the account number on your check to ensure that your donation is posted to the correct account.
10-31-2005, 04:53 PM
Claim Rejected in California Fireman's Death
Updated: 10-27-2005 05:09:54 PM
By John Woolfolk
Mercury News via Knight Ridder
Santa Clara County officials have rejected a $10 million claim for damages and death benefits filed on behalf of the widow and father of a Santa Clara County fire captain electrocuted while trying to save a burning Los Gatos home.
Capt. Mark McCormack, 36, was electrocuted Feb. 13 when he brushed against a 12,000-volt live power line that had fallen during the fire. He became the first firefighter in the 58-year history of the department to die in the line of duty.
The county counsel's office, which defends the department against liability claims, rejected the family's claim administratively after concluding that the firefighter's death was an accident for which the county was not responsible. Claims must be filed with the county for consideration before damages are sought in court through a lawsuit.
``We don't believe the county was involved in anything that caused his injury,'' lead Deputy County Counsel Winifred Botha said Wednesday.
Attorney Gary Nye filed the claim Aug. 11 on behalf of the firefighter's widow, Heather McCormack, and father, Jack McCormack. It argued the county is liable for ``failure to provide adequate safeguards against injuries from fallen high-voltage lines.''
Nye said Wednesday the family planned to file a lawsuit in about a month seeking damages from the property owners, and was weighing whether to continue seeking damages from the county.
``We have yet to make up our mind which parties to proceed against,'' Nye said.
In July, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or Cal-OSHA, cited the county for three ``serious accident-related'' safety violations in connection with the fire and recommended $44,100 in fines against the department.
OSHA said the department didn't have a written procedure for how firefighters should handle live power lines, failed to erect barriers at the fire scene to keep people away from the downed wire, and failed to keep firefighters away from an energized overhead line.
County Fire Chief Ben Lopes disputed the citations and has appealed the fine, arguing the department has extensive policies for handling live wires, and that barriers and other efforts to keep firefighters away from power lines are impractical at emergency scenes.
The fire was believed to have been started by candles or incense in the home's ``prayer room,'' which had been condemned by the county after a 2003 fire at the home. Other firefighters apparently knew the wire was live and were waiting for a utility crew to shut the power off. ``It amazes me how many things have gone wrong,'' Jack McCormack said. ``It's such a tragedy. My son was the head of the safety committee. He was safety-conscious.''
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