BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An injured firefighter is suing the Buffalo Fire Department.
Eric Whitehead suggests he was put in danger after fighting a fire on January 10. Whitehead says a fellow firefighter evacuated a house on Butler Ave. without him.
In previous interviews, Whitehead credited his fellow firefighters for saving his life.
Whitehead was taken to the hospital for severe burns.
“When you have attic fires of unoccupied houses in the city, we submit (that you) should not allow firefighters to have to go into those dangerous situations,” said Charles Desmond, Whitehead’s attorney.
In its response to the lawsuit, city attorneys wrote, “(T)he alleged injuries… may have been caused… by (Whitehead’s) assumption of the risks associated with the activity in which they were engaged in at the time of the accident.
The response also stated, “The plaintiff may have failed to mitigate their damages.”
In January, Buffalo Fire Commissioner William Renaldo noted that Whitelaw removed his own gloves in an effort to activated a mayday call.
A Buffalo fire source tells News 4 that, like most fire departments, BFD has a policy in its standard operating procedure of “two in-two out”. That is an OSHA directive which states that in life-threatening situations, at least two firefighters must remain in visual and voice contact with each other at all times.
A report by the Public Employee Safety and Health Unit of the New York State Department of Labor noted that in this case, that didn’t happen.
“Voice and/or visual contact was not maintained at all times while working in an (immediately dangerous to life or health) environment, resulting in a distressed firefighter requiring rescue,” the PESH report said.
Whitehead declined to comment on the lawsuit, Desmond said he has already had four or five surgeries, and has two more scheduled later this year.