The United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced there were 114 on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States as a result of incidents that occurred in 2008. During this period, there were firefighters lost from 34 states and one from the Virgin Islands. North Carolina experienced the highest number of fatalities (11), while Oregon (9), Pennsylvania (9), California ( 8), New York (7), Illinois (6), Missouri (6), and Ohio (6) each suffered more than 5 on-duty losses.
“The tragic losses of on-duty firefighters in 2008 are a reminder of the necessary commitment and efforts by firefighters in all fire departments across the United States to focus on and improve our operational safety. We understand all too well that many of these losses are preventable. The USFA remains dedicated to continuing our efforts to ensure 2009 is a year where we reduce these losses so that firefighters can return home safely to their families and continue serving their communities.”
-United States Fire Administrator Greg Cade
As the USFA continues to collect and evaluate information regarding the 2008 on-duty firefighter deaths, here are some of the early known facts:
Preliminary estimates indicate that heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 50 firefighters (43.8%) in 2008. This shows a decrease from 54 of the 118 (45.7%) firefighters in 2007.
In 2008, 26 on-duty firefighters died in association with wildland fires.
This loss is more than double the 11 wildland firefighter fatalities in 2007.
The 2008 toll is also above the annual average of 21 wildland fire-associated fatalities over the past 10 years, 1999-2008.
For 2008, 64.9% of all firefighter fatalities occurred while performing emergency duties.
Twenty-nine firefighters died in 2008 as the result of vehicle crashes.
Fourteen of these deaths involved aircraft crashes.
Fifteen firefighters died in motor vehicle crashes.
Six firefighters were killed in crashes involving their personal vehicles and three died in water tender (tanker) crashes. These two vehicle types have historically been most often involved in crashes that take the lives of firefighters.
Speed and a lack of seat belt use historically contribute to these incidents.
These fatality statistics for 2008 are provisional and subject to change as the USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on-duty during 2008. The final number of firefighter fatalities will be reported in USFA’s annual firefighter fatality report and is expected to be available by early July.
For additional information on firefighter fatalities, including the annual fatality reports from 1986 through 2007 and the Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990–2000, please visit the USFA Web site.