DAYTON — Three Dayton firefighters face disciplinary hearings after a man’s body was found in September inside a burned out garage, but not until a day after the fire.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office determined the man, 53-year-old Patrick Northern, died of “inhalation of products of combustion” and ruled his death accidental.
The garage fire happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 9 in a garage in the alley off the first block of North Horton Street. Fire crews said it appeared someone was living in the garage, but said no one was hurt.
Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey Payne said Thursday that it appears firefighters said that without performing a thorough search.
“In this case, those actions did not take place, as we found out from our investigation of the crews’ actions, which was a failure in policy,” he said.
A 911 call the next day brought Dayton fire and police back to the burned out garage.
Payne said it appeared the victim was trying to escape out a garage window as the fire burned but 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.”
The chief also revealed that Northern’s body was under two or three feet of debris.
“It was very difficult to try to distinguish the person within the debris in the garage,” said Payne, who added, “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.”
The chief also said that his crews respond to hundreds of fires each year and that the city should still be confident its fire department is ready to handle an emergency.
“We had an isolated incident where policy wasn’t followed. We’re going to address that internally to make sure we learn from it and the personnel learn from it,” Payne said.
Northern’s father said Wednesday that he did not hold any ill will toward firefighters.