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Two tragic apparatus crashes; one provides a sorrowful reminder to us all

apmontanacrash


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.

June was the second month of 2014 that saw the fewest on-duty deaths (Three fatalities in April). The small number reveals interesting data and reminds us once again of a common tragedy related to apparatus operations. The positive side of the June data is that no firefighters died inside a burning building.

A total of four fatalities were recorded during June. The average age of the victims was 50. The oldest was 54 and the youngest was 44. All were volunteer firefighters. Three were of chief or line officer rank. Only one was a “firefighter.”

Training was the activity that claimed the first victim. In Nevada a 52-year old assistant chief collapsed from an apparent heart attack while participating in wildland fire training. The second fatality occurred during a commercial structure fire in New Jersey. It is interesting to note the activity type and the local news reports. A 54-year old volunteer firefighter fell ill while working at a warehouse fire.

The nature and cause of his death are listed as “unknown” by the USFA. “Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack” is recorded as the victim’s activity but news reports offer more details. The victim had collapsed outside of the fire building after having previously gone in and out many times [1, 2, 3]

As stated before with similar data, it is worth looking into the specific details of the numbers as we discuss deaths that occurred during firefighting operations. The fourth death of the month involved a non-emergency apparatus crash. A 44-year old volunteer fire chief was killed in Montana when the engine he was driving collided with a pickup truck. The crash also claimed a family of five.

The victim was returning from a repair shop when the collision occurred [4]. The investigation later reported that several parts of the drive train failed causing the engine to veer into the path of the pickup truck [5].

The final death of June involved another apparatus crash and the report of a lack of seatbelt use. A 52-year old volunteer captain was ejected and killed when he lost control of the vehicle after leaving a residential structure fire [6]. This is the first on-duty death involving the lack of seatbelt use for 2014.

Data in Detail

(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)

Deaths involving Disorientation: 0

Deaths involving Building Collapse: 0

Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0 (4) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2)

Boston “became trapped by fire conditions”

Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0 (4) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2)

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 0 (New Jersey) (1)

1: Fall from roof of restaurant while performing ventilation (New Jersey)

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0

Multi-Fatality Incidents: 0 (2)

Boston, MA: 2 victims

Toledo, OH: 2 victims

 

Nature of Death

Asphyxiation: 0

Burns: 0 (2)

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0 (1)

Crushed: 0 (1)

Drowning: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 1 (24)

Not Stated: 0 (1)

Other: 0 (3)

Trauma: 2 (6)

Unknown: 1 (7)

 

Cause of Death

Assault: 0 (1)

Caught/Trapped: 0 (4)

Collapse: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0 (3)

Lost: 0

Other: 0 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 1 (27)

Struck by: 0 (1)

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 2 (4)

Unknown: 1 (4)

 

 Average Age: 50

Youngest: 44

Oldest: 54

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 0 (2)

Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0

 

Volunteer: 4 (27)

Career: 0 (23)

(1 victim listed as Wildland Full-Time)

 

 Rank/Position

Fire Chief: 1 (7)

Deputy Chief: 0 (1)

Assistant Chief: 1 (4)

Battalion Chief: 0 (1)

Major: 0

Captain: 1 (6)

Lieutenant: 0 (6)

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0 (1)

Firefighter: 1 (16)

1: Wildland Full-Time

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0 (1)

Recruit/Trainee: 0

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (2)

Fire-Police: 0

Department of Defense: 0

Chaplain: 0 (1)

 

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 1 (1)

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 2 (3)

 

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0 (1)

(Brush/Grass or Other Outdoor Fire (excluding Wildland): 1)

Fire Attack: 0 (1)

Advancing Hoseline: 1 (4)

1: listed as such but narrative says fell ill while working at scene and news report says was outside of building

2: During residential fire (Boston)

(1: During outdoor fire)

Search: 0 (3)

Deaths where occupants were known to be out of fire structure: 0

(1: Victim killed in secondary collapse while evacuating occupants)

Extrication: 0 (1)

Vent (Roof): 0 (1)

(1: Commercial structure (restaurant))

Pump Operations: 0 (1)

Water Supply: 0 (1)

Overhaul/Salvage: 0

On Scene: 0 (2)

Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus: 2

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

 

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 1 (6)

1: Victim collapsed during wildland fire training and died at hospital.

 

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: 2 (24)

1: victim killed in apparatus collision with civilian vehicle while returning from repair shop

1: victim ejected and killed in apparatus crash while returning from fire scene

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.

References

1. “Firefighter Collapses on Street While Battling 4-Alarm New Jersey ... NBC New York, June 2014 “He was running in and out of the building, which was engulfed in flames, when he collapsed on the street. “

2. “Firefighter dies battling fire at Union Beach commercial building,... NJ.com, Janue 2014 “He said the firefighter who was with the Union Hose Fire Co. in Union Beach had been in and out of the building. He was outside of the building when he died, Pasterchick said.”

3. “Heart attack killed New Jersey firefighter who died battling blaze” PIX11, June 2014 “At some point during the firefight, Meyer went into cardiac arrest and collapsed outside the building, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said.”

4. “Montana Fire Engine Involved in Fatal Crash; Fire Chief Killed” FirefighterNation.com, June 2014

5. “Cause of Fatal Montana Fire Engine Crash Identified” FirefighterNation.com, August 2014

6. “Unrestrained firefighter dies in Bienville Parish crash” KTSB, July 2014

Related

January 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

February 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

March 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

April 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

May 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

Montana crash scene photo courtesy of FFN/AP/The Independent Record, Eliza Wiley  

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BioPicBill 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 in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince George’s County. He 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.

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