44.7 Percent

The numbers don’t matter – Capt. Dave LeBlanc


As we continue to discuss the future of the fire service and it’s mission as it relates to fire attack, protecting civilians and our safety, something has become clear.

The numbers don’t matter. It was less safe to return from an incident this year than it was to operate on the fireground. 9 out of 87 deaths occurred on the fireground, while actively engaged in firefighting activities (advancing hoselines, search and rescue, ventilation) [1]. And of the 87, 44.7% were not incident related.

Yet from the daily dialogue one would would think differently. Considering the thousands of fire fought in this country, and the danger involved in firefighting, do those numbers warrant the the constant barrage of putting ourselves before victims, changing our tactics and the “over safetyification” of our jobs?

This isn’t to say there isn’t room for improvement. We can always learn more, train harder and do better; but with every LODD there is a chorus of “see, we told you this job was dangerous and we were right,” versus an honest assessment of what actually happened.

I have been accused of being angry, ranting, having a bad understanding of risk assessment and management and of improperly advocating for the victims to advance my agenda.

I do believe the victims come first, and will not apologize for that. I believe that in all aspects of what we do, but especially when it comes to fire suppression. If we change our mindset, and slow ourselves to reduce the importance of life safety, we fall into the same trap we do when when consider an AFA as just “another false alarm”. We become complacent and are not prepared to do what needs to be done when we have to act.

There is a lesson to be learned from every line of duty death. We owe it to those that have fallen to learn from their incident. But we need to stop using LODDs as an excuse to not prepare, to not be ready and to not complete our mission.



1. Actually there are 10, but when using USFA data as defined by Activity Type we are currently limited to nine: Toledo 2 (Search and Rescue); Boston 2 (Advancing Hoselines and Search and Rescue); New York 1 (Search and Rescue); New Jersey 1 (Ventilation, but fell due to medical emergency); Texas 1 (Advancing Hoselines); Indiana 1 (Collapse while setting up unmanned master stream inside commercial building); Philadelphia 1 (Listed currently as Unknown, but news reports indicate Advancing Hoselines); and New York 1 (Search and Rescue)



“Maryland Department, NFFF Team Up to Reduce Firefighter Deaths” (includes Tampa2 report) NFFF, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation, December 2014
“On Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?” Carey, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation, March 2013


Image courtesy of United States Fire Administration, 2014 Firefighter Fatality Data, from 8 January 2014 to 25 December 2014


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LeBlancProfilePhotoDave LeBlanc is a Captain with the Harwich, Massachusetts Fire Department. Dave entered the Fire Service in 1986 as a Call Firefighter with the Dennis Fire Department. He worked full time during the summers in Dennis, while attending the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. While at the University of New Haven, Dave studied Arson Investigation. He also was a volunteer with the Allingtown and West Haven Fire Districts in West Haven. He spent his sophomore year as a Live In student with the Allingtown Fire District. His education included internships with the Aetna Insurance Company and the Boston Fire Department Arson Squad.

In 1993 Dave went to work full-time with the Harwich Fire Department as a dispatcher. In 2000 he transferred into suppression and was promoted to Lieutenant in 2008. In addition to his regular duties, Dave also manages the Department’s Radio system, is responsible for conducting Fire Investigations, and assists in maintaining the computers systems.

Dave’s blog tends to focus on current day issues and maintaining a commitment to the ideals and principals that created the fire service, while keeping today’s firefighters safe.

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  • Ron Ayotte says:

    “Over safetyification”…

    Dave, that is the best description of what those who want to prevent us from doing the job want to do to the job.

  • Marshall Sampietro says:

    spot on….

  • Jon Newton says:

    Well done. You make some awesome points. In regards to the “numbers”…..(and kind of backing up your thought of changing tactics), we have often wondered why there is so much emphasis on RIT and the RIT/Industrial complex. I’m on Chicago and have worked in the Chicago Suburbs for almost 20 years. We’ve seen the advent of RIT, and I am by no means down-playing it, but what we don’t see is minimum physical standards that are ongoing assessments of a fireman’s physical health. I would think some type of physical assessment on a yearly basis would be the first step in lowering LODD, since almost 50 percent of LODDs, consistently year after year are heart or stroke related. Instead, we change our entire approach to firefighting to affect a small percentage of LODDs. Instead of “everyone goes home”…..how about “everyone stays healthy.” Newt.

  • Dave i agree with your whole post. However the one thing I’m not experiencing or seeing is the over safetyifcation. While i hear words spoke about being safe when possible, but not sacrificing service for safety. If anything, i see firefighters more aggressive than when i started many years back due to the increased protection from turnout gear. I personally see the actual safety over service issue as a fire service “urban legend”. If you read my blogs you will see i agree with you in addressing LODD’s at the area’s most problematic, health & Vehicle operations, (both department vehicles & POVs). While I am sure there are firefighters and fireground leaders who put safety in front of service, I say it’s a small minority. Instead of taking sides we should be working at developing best practices that makes us the most effective at saving lives and property. As part of that mission trying to find ways to do it with out being hurt and killed. We have enough battles with our political leaders trying to decimate the fire service, that we don’t need to fight between ourselves. Common ground I believe we all can agree on is: Let’s come to work (career & volunteer) fit for duty, let’s stop driving irresponsibly and lets train like we will work and we’ll reduce LODD’s and fire service injuries by 50- 70%. I do enjoy your posts and the ability to lead discussions that need to be had. Thx.

  • Jeff chandler says:

    Very good explanation! I have been known to have the same rant.

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