Last year, the number of firefighter killed while on duty was the lowest it has been in more than 15 years. Ninety firefighters died while on duty in 2009, according to a newly released USFA report. It is the least amount of deaths reported by the agency since the total was 81 in 1993. Thirteen of the 90 deaths were classified as Hometown Heroes. Firefighters who die of heart attacks or strokes within 24 hours of a response or training received the designation, which was adopted after legislation was signed in 2003. An analysis of statistics on the USFA Web site shows the 2009 fatalities the third lowest since the agency started keeping records in 1977. The number of on-duty deaths last year may change in the next few months as more information may be outstanding. Traditionally, state fire marshals across the country are asked to check records to make sure all incidents were reported.
During 2008, the USFA reported 118 firefighters lost their lives on duty. Last year, heart attacks were blamed for 47.7 percent of deaths, while 31.1 percent died of traumatic injuries and strokes were cited in 8.8 percent. The preliminary records showed 46 were volunteers and 36 were career firefighters. Eight wildland fire personnel also were killed. Twenty-eight percent of those killed were under 40. Stress and over exertion and vehicle collisions were listed as the top causes of the fatal incidents last year. April was the deadliest month -- 14 deaths -- followed by February and August with 10 each. Pennsylvania lost eight personnel last year, while New York lost seven.