Balt. Co. report: Firefighter's death had 'no single cause'

The death of a Baltimore County firefighter last year was caused by a confluence of "minor issues," according to the results of an investigation released Wednesday.

"The report leads me to conclude that while there is always room for improvement, there was no single cause, no single reason for this death," Baltimore County Fire Chief John J. Hohman wrote in a letter preceding the investigators' conclusions.

Mark Gray Falkenhan, 43, became the first Baltimore County firefighter to die in the line of duty in more than 25 years when he was trapped in a third-story apartment during a fire on Jan. 19, 2011, in Hillendale. Falkenhan was searching for residents when he was fatally injured in the fire, which was caused by a pot of oil on a stove in a lower-level apartment.

Radio noise hampered communication, and the burning apartments were in the middle of a long row of structures, delaying firefighters' full understanding of the fire conditions, the report concluded.

Also, Falkenhan's partner lacked a portable radio that would have allowed him to convey the severity of the fire to commanders.

The report recommends that all firefighters operating in a dangerous environment carry a portable radio and stick together when possible.

Falkenhan was a married father of two and worked as a career firefighter in Baltimore County for 16 years before taking a job with the Secret Service in 2006. He volunteered with the Lutherville Volunteer Fire Company after leaving his full-time position with the department.

An eight-member investigative team composed of Baltimore County fire administrators, fire union members and volunteer fire company representatives wrote the 84-page investigation into Falkenhan's death.

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