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Report: These factors contributed to firefighter Patrick Wolterman’s death

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Posted at 11:07 AM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 17:51:53-04

HAMILTON, Ohio -- The Hamilton Fire Department has changed its safety and announced contributing factors in the 2015 death of a firefighter in the line of duty, according to an internal line of duty death report released Monday.

Wolterman died on Dec. 28, 2015 when he fell through the floor and into the basement while fighting a house fire at 1310 Pater Avenue.

Prosecutors claimed the homeowner, Lester Parker, was strapped financially and hired his nephew, Billy Tucker, to set fire to his home so Parker could get insurance money. A judge in 2017 sentenced Parker and Tucker to life in prison for arson and murder.

The department has made changes to officer development and training, operational policies, live fire training drills and a systematic approach to revamp alarm and fire ground communications, Chief Mark Mercer said.

Arson, communications, location of the fire, doors being opened and equipment all contributed to Wolterman’s death, according to the report.

Arson contributed to Wolterman’s death because the fire was set in the basement where it went unnoticed and because “fire patterns and fire intensities are not normal when arson is involved,” the report said.

Protocol for dispatching units to the fire was followed, but confirmation of the fire’s location and conditions were not communicated, the report said. Additionally, a 360-degree evaluation of the structure was not completed, which allows firefighters to know “what is burning, where it is and where it is likely to travel.”

The report said a second cellar door was opened just before a firefighter forced open the front door. This provided fresh air to the fire in the basement, creating an “intense wind-driven fire.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), through the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, issued a report on the conditions that caused Wolterman’s death on July 14, 2017.

The Hamilton Fire Department’s internal investigation was conducted by a committee of firefighters and officers, including the chief, who determined what the department needed to do to improve safety and reduce the likelihood of fatalities in the field.

The Hamilton Firefighters’ Union said in a statement that the fire department’s internal report “ignores key contributing factors” of Wolterman’s death.

“The process to create the report was flawed and inconsistent as well,” the union said in a statement.

The union’s statement said cuts to the fire department in 2013 continue to play a major factor, including on the night of Wolterman’s death.

“Our inability to respond in a timely manner, dedicate proper resources to RAT (Rapid Assistance Team) and Safety and provide the best and safest practices for our citizens and firefighters are ongoing problems,” the statement said. “While we appreciate the work that went into it, this is not a complete and full report.”

Mercer objected.

"They (Local 20) have the right to their opinion, but we stand by the report and believe that it is complete and thorough," he said.

WCPO has reached out to Mercer and Tony Harris, president of Hamilton IAFF Local 20, for comment.

Read the full report below:

FF Wolterman LODD Report 12... by on Scribd