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TERRI P. GUESS
The family of a volunteer Rutherford firefighter killed in the line of duty last year has filed a lawsuit against the company that manufactures a breathing apparatus he was wearing at the time of the incident. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Hackensack, a year and five days after Thomas Dunn perished while battling a fire that destroyed a two-story home in the borough. Martin F. Kronberg, the attorney representing the Dunn family, said the family is claiming damages for the loss of the firefighter’s life. Also listed as plaintiffs are a colleague, Michael Jacobs, and his family. Jacobs was injured in the fire.
According to the suit, both men were injured due to negligently designed, self-contained breathing apparatus manufactured by Scott Aviation, a Figgie International company in New York. Kronberg said in court papers that the Polypropylene-carrying harnesses, which held oxygen tanks on the backs of the plaintiffs, melted. As a result of the defect, the suit maintains, Dunn’s face mask was pulled off, exposing him to lethal products of combustion, which caused his death. The tank on Jacobs back began to slide off, delaying his exit from the house and causing severe burns and related injuries, the court papers said. Kronberg said both families waited a year after the fire to file the suit because it took them a while to deal with the incident.
‘‘They were so distraught and upset they didn’t want to think of doing something for some time,“ he said. Dunn is survived by his wife, Paola, and three young children. Authorities said the fire began in the basement of a home on College Place and spread through the walls before reaching the second floor. Dunn became engulfed by flames when the space between the exterior and interior walls caused a hidden pocket of fire which ultimately caused a “flashover”, a sudden burst of flame, said Fire Chief Anthony Dombrowski. Dunn became trapped in an upstairs bedroom during the blaze while searching for survivors in the house. Jacobs, who was also on the second floor, was able to roll down the roof to escape the blaze. Authorities at Hackensack Medical Center said Jacobs suffered second- and third-degree burns to 20 percent of his body. Dunn was a postal worker for the Bulk Mail Center of Jersey City and a four-year member of the Rutherford Rescue Company No. 5. He was remembered by his colleagues as a well-educated man who was liked by his peers and dedicated to his job.