Hamilton releases investigation into firefighter’s death battling arson fire in 2015

The Hamilton Fire Department has released an internal report on the death of firefighter Patrick Wolterman during a 2015 incident that was later determined to be arson.

Wolterman died Dec. 28, 2015 while working a house fire at 1310 Pater Ave. The fire was intentionally set by the owner and a relative, officials later learned.

Lester Parker and William Tucker are both in prison after convictions for aggravated arson and murder following a trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

The city participated in an investigation conducted by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, through the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program to determine the fire ground conditions which contributed to the fatality, officials said.

NIOSH issued the report of the fire on July 14, 2017.

The city also put together a committee of firefighters and officers including the fire chief to determine what was needed to do to improve safety, reduce the likelihood of future deaths and maintain the high level of fire protection in the city.

The report points to five contributing factors in Wolterman’s death:

• The fire was set using gasoline and in a manner to delay the discovery of the fire

• Current practices in communication were followed, but improvements in timing, alarm information, and fire ground communications were necessary

• Finding the location of the fire was delayed because of weather conditions and an initial incorrect report people being in the house

• Cellar doors were opened, which gave fresh air to the fire when crews still did not know where it was located.

• Not all available communications equipment was used by firefighting personnel during the fire.

“This report is not a simple overview. We needed to delve into the issues that contributed to Patrick’s death. Where we identified areas that needed improvements, we made those improvements. There have been significant changes in the following areas; officer development and training, operational policies, live fire training drills, and a systematic approach to revamp our alarm and fire ground communications,” Fire Chief Mark Mercer said in a news release.

“We have constructed response models which improve our overall fire response. We have addressed communications gaps in our system and improved the expectation to identify, share, and receive emergency communications. We are committed to continuous improvement to ensure the safety of our firefighters and citizens alike.”

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