Former firefighter sues fire truck manufacturers for hearing loss

From the New York Post:

A former FDNY firefighter is suing several fire truck manufacturers for $150,000, claiming he’s suffered permanent, “irreversible” hearing loss because the sirens in the engines he rode were too loud.

Curtis O’Steen, who served from 1966 to 1981, said the companies sold trucks and engines that were in “defective condition” and didn’t protect firefighters from the shrill sirens.

“The crew compartments of the vehicles lacked sufficient sound insulation or other noise dampening measures that would lower the intense noise,” according to the recently filed Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.

O’Steen, who lives three hours north of New York City in Delaware County, is also suing company Federal Signal whose “Q-Siren” and “e-Q2B” sirens were used on the fire trucks.

UPDATED at 3:45 p.m. MST, March 3, 2015:

After having to remove two comments that violated our guidelines for comments, I feel compelled to add to this post.

I have no idea if the firefighter suffered a degradation in his hearing caused by sirens. Anyone can sue almost anyone for almost anything. And if they choose to use the court system, it does not mean they will win their suit.

However, it is a fact that some sirens produce noise levels that exceed the limits issued by OSHA and the NFPA. Examples of similar issues about sirens are here, here, and here.

Siren settlement: Federal Signal agrees to pay firefighters $3.8 million for hearing loss

sirenFederal Signal Corporation has reached a settlement with 1,125 firefighters who claim they have hearing loss caused by the company’s sirens. Federal Signal has been fighting numerous law suits from firefighters for years. In the settlement the company agreed to pay $3.8 million to the firefighters represented by attorney Joseph Cappelli.

If you are an emergency responder who rides in a piece of apparatus with a siren mounted on the cab roof, or if you keep the windows down while the siren is blasting, you may have an increased risk of hearing loss.  But even if your siren is on the front bumper you may still be at risk from the siren as well as the low frequency engine sounds which are transmitted through the bones in your skull to your ear. Headsets and ear plugs will provide little protection from the low frequency sounds.

To reduce your chances of hearing loss from the siren:

  1. Wear ear plugs or a sound-attenuating headset.
  2. Keep the windows up while responding.
  3. Remove the siren from the top of the cab and install it on the front bumper.
  4. Turn off the siren when you don’t need it.

More information about the dangers of hearing loss from sirens is HERE and HERE. And HERE is an interesting article that compares electronic sirens to electro-mechanical sirens.

And if your fire engines participate in parades, do not blast the sirens, no matter where they are located on the apparatus. In my town, the fire department has been known to blast the sirens from six to eight engines all at the same time in parades, while they drive very slowly past hundreds of spectators 10 feet away.

Wildfire news, July 8, 2009

After 90 years, Whitefish, MT fire siren is silent

The Whitefish, MT fire siren. Lifo Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon photo

After 90 years of summoning volunteer firefighters to staff the fire engines, the siren in Whitefish, Montana is being shut down because it exceeded the noise levels issued by OSHA and the NFPA. Whitefish fire chief Tom Kennelly said the noise was too loud for the full time staff that now reside in the fire station, just 20 feet from the siren’s many horns.

More information

History of firefighting helicopters

Forest protection supervisor Jack Dillon experiments with a water nozzle in a Bell 47D-1 owned by the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests around the early 1950s. The pilot is Shorty Ferguson. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Photo

Verticle On Line, “The Pulse of the Helicopter Industry”, has an interesting article about the history of helicopters used in fighting fire.

Charles Barkley donates to fire victims

Ex-NBA star Charles Barkley has donated another large sum of money to the victims of the June, 2007 Angora fire which destroyed over 250 homes. A year ago Mr. Barkley gave $100,000 to South Tahoe’s Commuinity Disaster Resource Center. Last week the center received another check from him, this time for $90,000. Shortly after the 2007 fire, Mr. Barkley hosted a dinner for 100 firefighters.

Study: No increased wildfire risk in spotted owl habitat

From the AP:

A new study challenges a basic justification about the threat of wildfires that the Bush administration used to make room for more logging in old growth forests that are home to the northern spotted owl.

The study, appearing in the journal Conservation Biology, found no increasing threat of severe wildfires destroying old growth forests in the drier areas where the owl lives in Oregon, Washington and Northern California.

“The argument used to justify a massive increase in logging under the (spotted owl) recovery program was not based on sound science,” said Chad T. Hanson, a fire and forest ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who was lead author of the study. “The recovery plan took a leap-before-you-look approach and did it without sound data.”

Li’l Smokey children’s book published

Adam Deem, the CalFire firefighter who found and rescued the injured bear cub on the northern California fire last year has written a children’s book about the bear. The book costs $11.99 and Mr. Deem says a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where “Li’l Smokey” was nursed back to health.

Snags on the Backbone fire

Six Rivers National Forest photo

The Backbone fire, which is being managed by the Atlanta National Incident Management Organization team, is in an area that burned in the 1999 Megram fire. Snags are one of the hazards faced by the firefighters. The fire has burned 4,584 acres in the Trinity Alps Wilderness in northern California and is 25% contained.

Embers burn more homes than flame impingement on some wildfires

The Missoulian has an article about the study completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology which Wildfire Today first told you about on June 19.

Here is a brief excerpt:

The report found that “out of the 74 destroyed structures, 38 were on the perimeter and the remaining 36 in the interior of the community.”

“Forty percent of homes on the perimeter were destroyed, compared to 20 percent in the interior. In the interior of the community, structure losses were a result of exposure to embers generated from burning wildland and residential vegetation and structural fuels,” according to the report.

Storing carbon vs. thinning forests

A new study concludes that forests are a great way to store carbon to offset global warming, but scientists say thinning would reduce this beneficial effect.

Thanks Dick and Kelly.

Wildfire news, February 27, 2009

Siren maker loses civil suit about hearing loss

Federal Signal, a company that makes sirens and light bars for emergency vehicles, lost a civil suit filed by nine firefighters in Cook County, Ill. who claimed they suffered hearing loss from exposure to loud fire-truck sirens. The company, which has successfully warded off many previous hearing-loss lawsuits, says they will appeal the decision and they will “fight aggressively to overturn this verdict.”

Australian fires

The town of Marysville. February 12, 2009. Photo: AAP

The southerly wind change that was expected to increase the threat of fires near Melbourne is occurring more slowly than expected but should reach the area in a matter of hours. Firefighters have been able to keep the four large fires that are still uncontrolled from spreading further.

Esperanza fire trial

In closing arguments on Thursday, the attorney defending Raymond Oyler, on trial for setting the 2006 Esperanza fire in southern California in which five USFS firefighters died, said his client DID set as many as 11 arson fires in 2006 but not the Esperanza fire. The attorney said that even though all of the fires were set with combinations of wooden matches and cigarettes, the way they were configured for the Esperanza fire was different from the other fires.

Oyler’s girlfriend told police he had bragged to her about setting fires and was disappointed that they were not larger. When she threatened to leave him if he kept setting the fires, he quit for six months, Michael Hestrin, the prosecutor said.

Hestrin told the jury, “Raymond Oyler set this fire and killed these five brave men. Hold him accountable for murder. That’s what he did. He killed these men.”

The jury began deliberations this morning at 9:15 after the judge gave them their instructions.

If you have information about the trial, send us an email (click on my photo at the very bottom of the page) or call us on the phone by clicking the “Call Me” button on the right side of this page.

Esperanza fire photo gallery

The LA Times has a collection of 16 photos of the Esperanza fire. Here is one.

UPDATE: 6:55 P.M. PT, Feb. 27

The jury ended their first day of deliberations on Friday without reaching a verdict. The four-man, eight-woman panel will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday.