Most died away from the scene than at the scene
Update: On 26 March, the USFA announced the death of an Oklahoma captain/chaplain killed during a fight with another firefighter.
The following information is a breakdown of the details of those members in the fire service who died while operating “on-duty” as defined by the United States Fire Administration. For more information on this definition and that of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s definition of “line of duty death” read “On Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?” The information presented is not meant to distract from the emotional toll felt by the families and coworkers. It is instead meant to remind us to look greater at the record of fatalities and in comparison to previous years as well as be a measure of substance when used in discussions.
There were 13 deaths in the month, four with actions that can be directly attributed to fireground duties (only one at a structure fire), two of those involved a collapse. The first involved the collapse of a cellular phone tower. A 28-year old volunteer firefighter was killed while working at the scene removing injured people. The collapse of a second tower nearby claimed his life. The second occurred in Mississippi; a 57-year old firefighter suffered a heart attack while operating a hoseline at a woods fire. The third victim, a 48-year old career company officer, was killed while at the scene of an Missouri apartment building walkway collapse. While the victim was evacuating occupants a second collapse occurred killing him. The final victim was killed while operating at a structure fire. A 57-year old volunteer company officer died after falling from the roof of a New Jersey restaurant while performing ventilation duties.
Only five fatalities were recorded in 2013. (USFA image)
Three on-duty deaths occurred the first day of the month. The first on-duty death of February was a 28-year old volunteer firefighter killed while working at the scene of a cell phone tower collapse. The victim was killed in a secondary collapse. A 57-year old volunteer firefighter suffered a heart attack while advancing a hoseline during an outdoor fire. A 67-year old volunteer firefighter passed away at home several hours after responding to his station for an MVA.
Regarding highway and vehicle safety, one career firefighter was stuck while working at the scene of an MVA on a highway in Dallas. An Arkansas volunteer fire chief was killed when his department vehicle hit an icy patch and crashed while responding to a MVA.
The greatest deaths in the month of February are from stress/overexertion and caused by heart attack or CVA. Eight victims died in this manner of nature and cause. Of these eight, two died within 24 hours of their incident and two died "several hours" after responding to an incident.
23 victims total died from Stress/Overexertion in 2013. 13 have already died in 2014. (USFA image)
February also saw changes in the oldest and youngest victims. The youngest was the 28-year old volunteer killed in the cell phone tower collapse. The eldest was the 71-year old career assistant chief who died several hours after his shift.
(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)
Deaths involving Disorientation: 0
Deaths involving Building Collapse: 0
Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 2 (Toledo) (2)
Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0
Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 2 (Toledo) (2)
Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 1 (New Jersey) (1)
1: Fall from roof of restaurant while performing ventilation (New Jersey)
Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0
Nature of Death
Cerebrovascular Accident: 1 (1)
Crushed: 1 (1)
Heart Attack: 7 (12)
Other: 1 (1)
Trauma: 3 (3)
Unknown: 1 (3)
Cause of Death
Assault: 1 (1)
Caught/Trapped: 2 (2)
Fall: 3 (3)
Stress/Overexertion: 8 (13)
Struck by: 1 (1)
Vehicle Collision: 1 (1)
Average Age: 53
- Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 2 (2)
- Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0
Volunteer: 9 (11)
Career: 5 (11)
(1 victim listed as “Industrial)
(1 victim listed as “Wildland Part-Time)
Fire Chief: 2 (3)
Assistant Chief: 2 (2)
Battalion Chief: 0
Captain: 2 (2)
Firefighter: 4 (9)
Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0
Pilot: 0 (1)
Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (1)
Department of Defense: 0
Chaplain: 1 (1)
Deaths involving lack of seatbelt use: 0
Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 1 (1)
1: Volunteer chief injured in department vehicle crash while responding to MVA; dies 17 days later.
Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death
Incident Command: 1 (1)
-Brush/Grass or Other Outdoor Fire (excluding Wildland): 1
Fire Attack: 1 (1)
-Advancing Hoseline: 1
(1: During outdoor fire)
Search: 1 (3)
- Deaths where occupants were known to be out of fire structure: 0
1: Victim killed in secondary collapse while evacuating occupants.
Extrication: 1 (1)
Vent (Roof): 1 (1)
1: Commercial structure (restaurant)
Pump Operations: 1 (1)
Water Supply: 0
On Scene: 1 (1)
(1: Victim suffers cardiac arrest while investigating a fire alarm)
Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus: 0
Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0
Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0
Department of Defense, Military fire-service LODDs: 0
Deaths Linked to 11 September 2001: 0
Deaths Which Occurred Outside the “Traditional” Line of Duty Definition: 6 (10)
1: Victim dies after being involved in a fight with another firefighter at firehouse.
1: Victim suffers fatal heart attack shortly after shift with >1 emergency response.
1: Career chief officer suffers heart attack several hours after completing shift.
1: Victim falls ill several hours after responding to EMS call; dies of CVA next day in hospital.
1: Victim died at home several hours after responding to a MVA.
1: Victim falls ill 24 hours after responding to mutual aid fire; dies next day.
1: Victim suffers heart at home several hours after responding to station for MVA.
It is always important to reiterate that the discussion of the details in the reporting of these deaths is not meant to diminish the loss. Each number is a person mourned by a family, friends and coworkers. What is intended in this and related writing is that it is important for the fire service to be aware of the details in our on-duty death numbers. Blindly saying that 100 or so firefighters die each year, as well as saying “we’ve lost too many” each time a fatality occurs is turning a blind eye to the data. By understanding the details in the recording we can be more aware of trends, both good and bad, in our efforts to reduce these fatalities.
Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Columbia Missourian, Josh Bachman.
Bill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.com, LawOfficer.com and FireEMSBlogs.com. Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter and has served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville. Bill’s writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of “Fire Officer: Principles and Practice”, The Secret List and Tinhelmet.com. His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health has been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.