Firefighter died after high-pressure water knocked him off third-story railing

A San Francisco Fire Department firefighter-paramedic suffered fatal injuries Wednesday after he was hit in the chest by a powerful stream of water, knocking him over a third-story railing to the ground below, according to a preliminary summary report released Sunday by the fire department.

Jason Cortez, 42, was injured during a training drill around 10 a.m. Wednesday at the fire department’s training facility at 2300 Folsom St. He was rushed to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries an hour after he arrived.

Cortez, a San Francisco native, had been with the department since 2007, and had been assigned to the Tenderloin fire station since January 2019.

The preliminary summary report said that a fire lieutenant saw Cortez opening the gate of a “wye,” a short section of pipe with a branch joining it at an acute angle, without a hose line attached to it. That action, which the report says was inadvertent, released a powerful stream of water, which struck Cortez in the chest, causing him to lose his balance, fall backwards into and over the railing of the fire escape to the ground below.

Cortez was alone at his location, the preliminary report said, because of COVID-19 safety protocols.

Under COVID-19 procedures, “multi-company” drills are suspended. That, the report said, required the members of Engine 3 to conduct a pump operation drill alone at their specific locations. Such a drill usually would require two engine companies and eight personnel to perform, instead of four.

“Each (firefighter) was required to carry out tasks individually which are normally done as part of a team,” the report said.

A GoFundMe account to raise money for Cortez’ two sons to attend college has been established.

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