Most died at home, except for one at a charity event
The following information is a breakdown of the details of those members in the fire service who died while operating â€œon-dutyâ€ as defined by the United States Fire Administration. For more information on this definition and that of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundationâ€™s definition of â€œline of duty deathâ€ read â€œOn Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?â€ 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.
During the month of September, most firefighter deaths occurred at home or hours after an emergency call. An odd incident also claimed the life of one of the victims during that month and highlighted the fact that avoiding complacency does not apply only to the fireground. The first fatality happened on 5 September when a 60-year old career Ohio firefighter/paramedic passed away from a sudden illness . The victim had responded to an earlier call for smoke in a nursing home.
The second death of the month involved a 68-year old firefighter [2}. On 8 September, the New Jersey volunteer firefighter had driven a tanker to a reported fire alarm activation. The victim stood by while others investigated to scene. After clearing the incident the victim refueled the apparatus at the firehouse. It is noted that he appeared tired but had no complaints. Approximately five hours later he was found unresponsive in his personal vehicle, which had run off the road. The nature of death is reported to be a heart attack. It is important to remember that while this involves a POV and is attributed to vehicle operations, neither is the cause of the firefighter’s death. A heart attack three hours after a call is also what claimed another firefighter on 8 September. The 47-year old Michigan assistant chief was found deceased at his home after having responded to an earlier incident .
A crash while responding claimed the fourth victim, and youngest, of the month. On 16 September the North Carolina volunteer lost control of the tanker he was driving . The apparatus hit a ditch and overturned. The victim died as a result of his injuries. A passenger was injured.
A terrible tragedy occurred on 20 September during a charity event. A career Kentucky captain was killed and three other firefighters injured when the tower ladder they were operating became too close to electrical lines . The four were assisting a local university marching band with the popular ALS ice bucket challenge . The 41-year old captain passed away almost a month after the incident.
The final firefighter fatality of September involved another elderly victim. On 23 September a 67-year old New York volunteer firefighter was found deceased at his home, several hours after having responded to an alarm in the previous early evening . The nature and cause of death are still reported as “unknown.”
Sadly, each death and the figure of data represents a member that families and departments will mourn. We can take some small solace in that none died inside a fire building. However, the month of September reminds us all to be increasingly aware of other areas, besides fire behavior and building construction, that can claim firefighters.
Data in Detail
(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)
Deaths involving Disorientation: 0
Deaths involving Building Collapse during Fire: (1) (Indiana: 1)
Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0 (5) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2) (New York: 1)
Boston â€œbecame trapped by fire conditionsâ€
New York, implied to have been burned while trapped
Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0 (1)
Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0 (4) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2) (New York: 1)
Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 0 (2) (New Jersey, Indiana)
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
Burns: 0 (3)
Cerebrovascular Accident: 0 (1)
Crushed: 0 (1)
Heart Attack: 2 (29)
Not Stated: 0 (1)
Other: 0 (3)
Trauma: 1 (11)
Unknown: 1 (10)
Cause of Death
Assault: 0 (1)
Caught/Trapped: 0 (5)
Collapse: 0 (1)
Contact With: 1
Fall: 0 (3)
Other: 0 (1)
Stress/Overexertion: 2 (32)
Struck by: 0 (1)
Vehicle Collision: 1 (8)
Unknown: 1 (7)
Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 2 (6)
Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0
Volunteer: 3 (36)
Career: 2 (27)
(1 victim listed as Wildland Full-Time)
Fire Chief: 0 (9)
Deputy Chief: 0 (1)
Assistant Chief: 1 (6)
Battalion Chief: 0 (1)
Captain: 1 (8)
Lieutenant: 0 (7)
Safety Officer: 0 (1)
Fire Crew Supervisor: 0 (1)
Firefighter: 3 (23)
1: Wildland Full-Time
Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0
Pilot: 0 (1)
Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (2)
Department of Defense: 0
Chaplain: 0 (1)
Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0 (2)
Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 1 (6)
Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death
Incident Command: 0 (1)
(Brush/Grass or Other Outdoor Fire (excluding Wildland): 1)
Fire Attack: 0 (2)
Advancing Hoseline:0 (6)
1: Victim was setting up unmanned line inside commercial structure fire
1: listed as such but narrative says fell ill while working at scene and news report says was outside of building
3: During residential fire (Boston, Houston)
(1: During outdoor fire)
Search: 0 (4)
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)
On Scene: 0 (3)
Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus: 2 (6)
Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0
Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0 (7)
Department of Defense, Military fire-service LODDs: 0
Deaths Linked to 11 September 2001: 0
Deaths Which Occurred Outside the â€œTraditionalâ€ Line of Duty Definition: 4 (31)
1: Victim fell suddenly ill several hours after an emergency call.
1: Victim found unresponsive in POV crash due to heart attack, after emergency call.
1: Victim found deceased at home three hours after having responded to emergency call.
1: Victim dies almost a month after being electrocuted during a charity event.
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 â€œweâ€™ve lost too manyâ€ 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.
6. “Kentucky Firefighter Injured in Ice Bucket Challenge Dies” FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation, September 2014
7. Allen Westby, East Islip Fire Department
Photo: A Campbellsville Fire Department truck with the ladder extended remained at the scene where two firefighters were injured during an ice bucket challenge during a fundraiser for ALS on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Campbellsville, Ky. Officials say the ladder got too close to a power line and electricity traveled to the ladder, electrocuting the firefighters. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
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 in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince Georgeâ€™s County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville. Billâ€™s writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of â€œFire Officer: Principles and Practiceâ€, 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.