OSHA considers safety citations

North Charleston firefighter John Bolton, lying on the roof of a house on Purity Drive, was one of three firefighters injured while fighting this July 7 blaze. Bolton required treatment at an Augusta burn center, and is now back on light duty. Also injure

State workplace safety investigators are mulling possible citations against the North Charleston Fire Department for its handling of a July house fire that left three firefighters injured.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering citing the department for incident command and manpower issues during the July 7 blaze on Purity Drive, Fire Chief Greg Bulanow said in a departmental memo issued last week.

He pledged to take whatever action is necessary to correct problems once OSHA issues its final report.

"I feel its important to keep everyone informed about the process," Bulanow said Friday. "Any time people are injured we take that seriously and we want to find a way to prevent a reoccurrence."

Three firefighters required medical treatment after fighting the fast-moving fire that destroyed a two-story home in the Hollow Oaks neighborhood.

Neighbors reported hearing what sounded like a small explosion, followed by a second-story window being kicked or blown out. Photographs show two firefighters scrambling from the window as smoke billows out.

Firefighter John Bolton required treatment at an Augusta burn center. He is now back on light duty, Bulanow said. Also injured were Capt. William Odum and Firefighter Antwon Green. Both have returned to full duty.

Bulanow stated that OSHA is considering citing the city for:

--The initial incident commander's lack of access to an accountability system for tracking the movements and assignments of firefighters battling the blaze.

--Transferring command of the scene from a captain to a battalion chief without a face-to-face exchange.

--Failing to adhere to the so-called "two in, two out" rule throughout the fire. That safety practice requires that at least two firefighters enter a burning building and remain in contact while at least two more remain outside, ready to help should an emergency arise.

OSHA raised similar concerns during its investigation into the June 2007 Sofa Super Store blaze that killed nine Charleston firefighters.

Bulanow said he has some points he wishes to address with OSHA before its report is finalized, but he declined to discuss specifics. The Fire Department is conducting an internal review as well. Bulanow said his main goal is to improve safety.

Jim Knight, a state OSHA spokesman, offered no specifics on the agency's investigation, but said the final findings won't be ready for release for another two weeks.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or gsmith@postandcourier.com.