Dayton firefighters to be disciplined for not noticing body in rubble

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Three Dayton firefighters who failed to notice a body in the rubble after they put out a garage fire in September will face disciplinary action

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Three Dayton firefighters who failed to notice a body in the rubble after they put out a garage fire in September will face disciplinary action, the fire chief said Friday.

Chief Jeffrey Payne said the three unnamed firefighters will be disciplined internally for not performing a thorough search of the garage after the fire was extinguished.

RELATED: Body found inside Dayton garage that caught fire Monday morning

The firefighters responded to the fire in the first block of North Horton Street on Sept. 9. A day later, passersby found the body of Patrick Northern, 53, in the rubble. Northern died of “inhalation of products of combustion,” the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office ruled.

Deborah Northern, his wife, said when she learned about her husband’s death, she wanted to know why a search wasn’t done.

“I know this was a mess up, I know this was mistake, but this should have never happened,” Deborah Northern said Friday. “I just don’t want this happening to another family.”

She and her husband were estranged, and had not been in contact for a while, she said.

Northern’s father said Wednesday that he did not hold any ill will toward the firefighters.

Payne said it appeared Northern was attempting to escape out a garage window as the fire burned, but he didn’t make it.

“Had we done a search, yes, we would have located the person,” Payne said. “Would it have changed the result? Likely not.”

Dayton firefighters normally conduct two searches after putting out fires, the chief said.

“Typically we do a primary and secondary search,” he aid. “A different crew does a secondary, more thorough search where they look in closets and under beds, that kind of thing. In this case, those actions did not take place.”

The chief also revealed that Northern’s body was under 2 to 3 feet of debris.

“It was very difficult to try to distinguish the person within the debris in the garage,” said Payne.“This is no excuse, none whatsoever. Had we done a search and done a thorough search we may have located the person, but by no means was it an obvious find.”

RELATED: Cause of death determined for man found in burned garage on North Horton Street

The chief also said that his crews respond to hundreds of fires each year, and the city should still be confident its fire department is ready to handle any emergency.

“I don’t think the public should think that we take these things lightly,” Payne said. “We’re very good at what we do and like anyone else, we are prone to make a mistake every once in a while.”

Payne stressed that the department would address the incident “with appropriate corrective action.”