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Fire Department Cited For Firefighter Death

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Santa Clara County Fire Department officials have declined to comment on citations issued to the fire department Thursday in connection with the February death of a firefighter who was electrocuted by a downed power line.

Arson investigator Dennis Johnsen, who sat down with California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) representatives in a meeting Thursday, would not comment on the allegations.

Johnsen said the fire department would likely prepare a formal statement for today.

The citations allege that at the scene of a four-alarm fire in Los Gatos on Feb. 13, the fire department failed to set up “enclosures, fences, partitions or other effective methods to prevent accidental contact with downed 12,000 volt energized power lines.”

According to Cal/OSHA, the department also failed to prevent firefighters from working around the live wire, as they should have been safeguarded from the line until it was clear.

A third citation alleges that the department failed to maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program in accordance with state standards.

Cal/OSHA claims that the department’s failure to implement updated written procedures for dealing with downed power lines resulted in the electrocution of Capt. Mark McCormack.

The citations carry proposed fines of $44,000, but can be appealed by Aug. 15.

McCormack, 36, died battling a fire at a hillside home located at 15700 Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos. He was the first firefighter killed in the 58-year-history of the county fire department.

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