Cincinnati Police Department to officers: Do not try to save fire victims

'Resist the urge to enter the structure'

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati police officers were issued a new training bulletin Friday, ordering them not to enter a building that is on fire – no matter how small – to rescue people inside.

The bulletin, obtained by the I-Team, was introduced after the death of a New York Police Department officer.

Dennis Guerra, 38, who served more than seven years with the NYPD, died from inhaling carbon monoxide in April while saving others from a fire in a Brooklyn apartment building.

Cincinnati officers who are first to respond to a fire are now ordered to stay out of burning buildings and ignore their instinct to rescue others.

“It’s understandable that officers have an extraordinary desire to rush in and save lives,” the memo states. “However, there are many dangerous consequences associated with this desire, which can lead to serious injury or death.”

Cincinnati Police Department officials say firefighters are instructed early in their careers about basic fire behavior and are trained to avoid invisible, odorless and undetectable gases and toxins.

But officers are not as prepared.

“It is standard best practice to never enter a building fire without personal protective equipment, not even for the purpose of rescue,” the bulletin states.

The memo warns officers not to break windows or ventilate a home in any way because fires need oxygen to burn – and allowing air to enter can endanger anyone attempting to escape.

So what can an officer do if he or she is first to respond to a fire?

The department gives the following steps:

  1. Confirm the correct incident address and whether there are obvious indicators the structure is on fire, such as the presence of smoke and/or flames.
  2. Gather additional information indicating the volume and color of the smoke. This informs responding firefighters what they are facing.
  3. Try to determine exactly where the structure fire is located without entering the structure.
  4. Are there people trapped in the building and if so, where? Accurate assessment of where the fire is located can simplify the response and aid in a speedy rescue effort.
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