January 2015 On-Duty Deaths in Detail

The good news is no one died inside a burning building

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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.

January 2015 started off as every new year does, in the shadow of the former year. 84 firefighters died while on-duty and as the past articles on this subject highlight, not every one of those died while actively engaged in fire suppression duties. The average age of the victims was 53 years; the oldest was 61, the youngest 42. Company and chief officers accounted for half of the victims by rank.

None of the victims died inside a burning building and none were killed in an apparatus or POV accident.

On 8 January a Missouri career battalion chief was the first death of 2015. The 42-year old victim passed away from a nature and cause not yet reported, several hours after responding to an alarm [1]. Two days later, a paid-on-call captain died at home. The 58-year old victim died also of a nature and cause not yet reported, several hours after responding to a motor-vehicle accident [2].

A Wisconsin volunteer firefighter became unresponsive while riding in his department’s tanker en route to a mutual aid structure fire. His coworkers immediately treated him and the 58-year old victim was subsequently transported to a different hospital, where he passed away seven days later, on 21 January [3]. His cause and nature of death are also not yet reported.

22 January brought our first on-duty death associated with training. A 49-year old career Kansas firefighter suffered a heart attack while participating in mandatory air management training [4].

Stress and overexertion claimed the fifth firefighter in January. On the 28th another Kansas firefighter fell as he became ill and collapsed at his firehouse in response to an alarm for a grass fire. The 55-year old volunteer passed away the next day as a result of a stroke [5].

We started with the unknown in January and that is how the month ended. On the 31st a 61-year old Iowa assistant chief died at home several hours after leaving the scene of a large commercial structure fire [6]. He would be our oldest victim for the month.

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.

Data in Detail

(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)

Deaths involving Disorientation: 0
Deaths involving Building Collapse during Fire: 0
Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0

Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0
Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 0

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0

Multi-Fatality Incidents: 0

Nature of Death
Asphyxiation: 0
Burns: 0
Cerebrovascular Accident: 1
Crushed: 0
Drowning: 0
Electrocution: 0
Exposure: 0
Heart Attack: 1
Not Stated: 0
Other: 0
Trauma: 0
Unknown: 4

Cause of Death
Assault: 0
Caught/Trapped: 0
Collapse: 0
Contact With: 0
Exposure: 0
Fall: 0
Lost: 0
Other: 0
Stress/Overexertion: 2
Struck by: 0
Trauma: 0
Vehicle Collision:
Unknown: 4

Average Age: 53
Youngest: 42
Oldest: 61
Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 0

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

Volunteer: 3
Career: 3
– Paid on Call: 1

County Fire Coordinator: 0
Fire Chief: 0
Deputy Chief: 0
Assistant Chief: 1
Battalion Chief: 1
Major: 0
Captain: 1
Safety Officer: 0
Fire Crew Supervisor: 0
Firefighter: 3
Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0
Pilot: 0
Recruit/Trainee: 0
Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0
Fire-Police: 0
Fire Marshal: 0
Department of Defense: 0
Chaplain: 0

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death
Incident Command: 0

Fire Attack: 0
– Advancing Hoseline: 0
– Search: 0

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

Extrication: 0
Vent (Roof): 0
Pump Operations: 0
Water Supply: 0
Overhaul/Salvage: 0
On Scene: 0
Scene Safety: 0

Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus: 0

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 1
1: Victim suffered a heart attack during SCBA training

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
1: Victim died several hours after responding to an alarm
1: Victim died in his sleep at home, several hours after responding to an alarm
1: Victim died at home several hours after a commercial structure fire


  1. Christopher A. Tindall, South Metropolitan Fire Protection District
  2. Franck W. Tremaine, Jackson Fire Department
  3. Leslie “Les” W. Fryman, Rosendale Volunteer Fire Department
  4. Ronnie W. Peek, Garden City Fire Department
  5. Clifford “Cliff” Sanders, Caney Volunteer Fire Department
  6. Mike “Coop” Cooper, Centerville Fire Department


Photo courtesy of author


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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 was been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.

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