October 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail



Elderly firefighter, halted investigation and an on-duty police officer ejected. October was interesting



October’s on-duty deaths were unique, in one word to describe the month. From the death of a Connecticut firefighter in structure fire (and the fallout that followed) to what will become the oldest victim for the year, the range of firefighter fatalities was varied.


The month started with the death of a 73-year old Arkansas volunteer assistant chief. The victim was working the scene of an outdoor fire when he fell ill and passed away [1]. The cause of death is listed as Stress/Overexertion and the nature is still not reported.

Six days later a Connecticut firefighter was killed at a structure fire. On 7 October, the 48-year old career firefighter was operating at a residential structure fire when he and other firefighters became injured while on the second floor [2]. Three firefighters were injured, one which had jumped from a window [3]. The developing stories from this incident are mired in a feud between the chief of department and board or inquiry members [4], as well as news reports of the victim’s SCBA being out of air, an unanswered mayday, and other unrelated but troubling reports of on- and off-duty misconduct. It was almost a month to the date that the investigating team finally met officially for the first time, according to local news reports [5]. The victim’s activity type is listed as “Unknown”, possibly due to the ongoing conflicts in the department. Being assigned to an engine company at the time of his death, we should expect it to be changed to “Advancing Hoselines”.

The wildland community experienced an on-duty death in October, when an aircraft crash claimed a pilot. In California, a 62-year old pilot on contract was killed when his tanker went down at the Dog Rock Fire near Yosemite National Park [6]. While the investigation into the cause of the crash continues, federal authorities believe that the wing of the aircraft may have hit a tree and broken off before tanker crashed into a canyon wall [7].

On October 20 we experienced a unique response death in Missouri. A 45-year old volunteer fire chief, working as an on-duty police officer, was killed while responding to a residential structure fire[8]. The victim lost control of his police department cruiser and was ejected. His death is also listed as a line of duty death by the law enforcement community [9].

A Louisiana line officer passed away on 27 October (the USFA data has the incident date and date of death switched showing the victim dying before the incident occurred) while on an out of state training assignment [10]. The cause and nature of his death are unknown, as his duty type is listed as ‘Training.’

A female volunteer firefighter passed away after being alerted to a call by her pager. The 26-year old Pennsylvania firefighter went into cardiac arrest according to news reports [11, 12]. A mother to a one-month old child, she was a 10 year veteran of her department.

On 30 October a Kentucky career chief officer died after a physical test. The 60-year old major was found dead in his department vehicle after having completed a mandated annual physical agility test [13]. The testing was done at an offsite medical provider’s facility. The cause and nature of his death are unknown.

The value of the longevity of service will no doubt be a contentious debate surrounding the final on-duty death of the month. An 84-year old New York volunteer firefighter fell ill on 30 October after arriving at his firehouse for mandatory training [14]. The victim was taken home by other firefighters where he became unresponsive. He passed away from a cause not yet reported by the USFA.

Why an 84-year old man has to attend mandatory training is beyond me.


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: 1 (6) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2) (New York: 1) (Connecticut: 1)

Boston “became trapped by fire conditions”

New York, implied to have been burned while trapped

Connecticut is implied based on news reports of firefighters having to evacuate, one bailing out from a window. No specific details have been released

Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0 (1)

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 1 (5) (Toledo: 2) (Boston: 2) (New York: 1) (Connecticut: 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

Asphyxiation: 0

Burns: 0 (3)

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0 (1)

Crushed: 0 (1)

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0 (1)

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 1 (30)

Not Stated: 0 (1)

Other: 0 (3)

Trauma: 2 (13)

Unknown: 4 (14)


Cause of Death

Assault: 0 (1)

Caught/Trapped: 0 (5)

Collapse: 0 (1)

Contact With: 0 (1)

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0 (3)

Lost: 0

Other: 0 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 2 (34)

Struck by: 0 (1)

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 2 (10)

Unknown: 4 (11)


Average Age:

Youngest: 54

Oldest: 84

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (6)

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


Volunteer: 4 (40)

Career: 3 (31)

(1 victim listed as Wildland Full-Time)

(1 victim listed as Wildland Contract)



Fire Chief: 1 (10)

Deputy Chief: 0 (1)

Assistant Chief: 1 (7)

Battalion Chief: 0 (1)

Major: 1 (1)

Captain: 1 (9)

Lieutenant: 0 (7)

Safety Officer: 0 (1)

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0 (1)

Firefighter: 3 (26)

1: Wildland Full-Time

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 1 (2)

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 (3)

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0 (6)


Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0 (1)

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

Fire Attack: 1 (3)

Advancing Hoseline: 1 (7)

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

1: Connecticut is assumed, based on victim’s company assignment

4: During residential fire (Boston, Houston, Connecticut)

(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: 1 (2)

Water Supply: 0 (1)

Overhaul/Salvage: 0

On Scene: 0 (3)

Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus: 3 (9)

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0


Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 1 (10)

1: Victim died of unknown cause and nature while at out of state training

1: Victim suffered cardiac arrest after being alerted to call

1: Elderly victim fell ill after arriving at training; passed away at home


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: 3 (34)

1: Victim died of unknown cause and nature while at out of state training

1: Victim was found deceased in department vehicle after physical agility test

1: Elderly victim fell ill after arriving at training; passed away at home



  1. J.B. Hutton, Jr., Dermott Volunteer Fire Department
  2. Kevin Bell, Hartford Fire Department
  3. “Connecticut Firefighter Killed, Others Injured in Apartment Fire” FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, October 2014
  4. “Official Says Chief Halted Probe of Firefighter’s Death” Steven Goode, Hartford Courant, 8 December 2014
  5. “Hartford Fire Department Task Force Convenes for First Time” NBC Connecticut, 6 January 2015
  6. Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, CAL FIRE
  7. “California Tanker May Have Struck Tree in Fatal Crash” FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, October 2014
  8. Eddie Johnson, Jr. Alton Fire Department
  9. Police Officer Eddie Johnson, Jr., Alton Police Department, Officer Down Memorial Page
  10. Troy Magee, New Orleans Fire Department
  11. Christi Rodgers, Robert Fulton Fire Company
  12. “Cardiac Arrest Claims Young Pennsylvania Firefighter” FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, October 2014
  13. Malcolm Jenkins, Fern Creek Fire Department
  14. Donald “Pete” Martin, Sanborn Fire Company


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

June 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

July 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

August 2014 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

Top photo courtesy of Associated Press video image


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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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