7.4 Training Accidents

While not an intentional deployment, in at least one documented incident, a pepper fogger used in firefighter training exercises caused severe symptoms and led to an investigation (Judd 1981).

7.4.1 Bullitt Volunteer Fire Department

On December 15 1981, The Southeast Bullitt Volunteer Fire Department In Kentucky was conducting a smoke training exercise using a pepper fogger on loan from the fire marshal’s office when their “victim” and 16 others (including firefighters) began experiencing coughing fits, headaches, and chest pains (Judd 1981).

Although Smith and Wesson (the Pepper Fogger manufacturer at the time) claimed this was a one-off incident, the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office had received other reports of firefighters becoming sick when using foggers in smoke training (Judd 1981). Residue tests later revealed no unexpected compounds (The Courier-Journal 1982), indicating the toxicity had come from the design-for-use “safe” smoke.