INDIANAPOLIS - The final report on an Indianapolis firefighter’s injury while battling an August house fire blames a breathing mask that had already been damaged, possibly by routine wear and tear.
Firefighter Chris McGrone was rushed to the hospital after toxic smoke and fumes overwhelmed him inside a burning home in the 1500 block of North Columbia Avenue on August 16. His recovery prompted doctors to place him in a medically-induced coma for several days.
Fire department leaders said his mask somehow allowed those toxic fumes to enter his mask, causing him to be overcome while fighting the fire.
The final report on the investigation into his injury was released on Friday and it ruled out a design defect, finding his mask had already been damaged before he rushed into the burning home to look for possible fire victims.
The report included several pictures of his breathing air mask, with the photos showing at least one spot where the seal around his mask had been chipped away.
Investigators determined that those seals had been cracked by previous use or handling, possibly because of how the mask had been stored or because it had been brushed up against other equipment as it was being taken off his fire truck.
Within hours of the fire scene injury, the Indianapolis Fire Department began inspecting every face mask at fire stations throughout the city. Inspectors wrote in the final report that 241 masks were found with similar cracking and damage around the face seal.
Those 241 masks were immediately replaced early in the process, according to the final report.
The fire department noted that it already had mandatory daily inspections of all breathing gear, but the report pointed out there was a gap in checking for the kind of wear and tear that led to McGrone’s injury.
The final report included 11 recommendations, including changing that inspection program to watch out for similar wear and tear in the future.
The report also recommended potential changes to how those masks are stored in between fire runs.
Finally, the report recommends that five breathing masks be sent to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and five masks be sent to the Safety Equipment Institute for testing to ensure there are no additional design concerns with the masks.