First Quarter On-Duty Deaths 2015


A look at the first three months of the year





The first quarter of 2015 ended with 22 firefighter fatalities, down by 13 from the same quarter last year. The department type listing for the period includes nine career firefighters (including paid-on-call) and 13 volunteer firefighters. The youngest victim was 18 years of age, the oldest 74. There was only one recording of a multiple fatality incident in this period, an aircraft crash that claimed two victims in Mississippi [1]. In the same period last year the fire service had already experienced two multiple fatality incidents. The first was the deaths of two firefighters in Toledo, Ohio on 26 January. The second was the deaths of two firefighters in Boston on 26 March.


Fire Attack
Five firefighters died in the first quarter while either advancing hoselines or searching for occupants. Of these five, three were actually inside a burning structure when they were killed [2]. The other two had been outside of the structure when they collapsed. Each of these was victims of heart attack. Each of the remaining three was killed while working inside a residential structure. Two involved single-family dwellings and the other was a five-story apartment building. No firefighters were killed while performing ventilation duties.

0 deaths involving disorientation
0 deaths involving flashover, backdraft or other sudden fire behavior
0 deaths involving commercial, educational or institutional occupancies
0 deaths involving vacant/abandoned buildings


Driving, Responding, Apparatus Crashes and Struck By
A total of five deaths for the first quarter of 2015 involved vehicle accidents. The first occurred on 5 February when an Illinois volunteer fire chief was struck and killed when apparatus was being moved to block the roadway for a helicopter landing [3]. The second occurred on 15 February when department apparatus struck a South Carolina volunteer firefighter near an auto accident. The other two were killed in March when their helicopter crashed during a controlled burn in a Mississippi forest. On 10 January a New York fire-police member was struck by a vehicle while he was stopping traffic in front of his firehouse so personnel to drive to a firehouse transfer.

0 deaths involving POV response
0 deaths involving lack of seat belt use
0 deaths involving department apparatus returning from an emergency call


One firefighter died during training in this time period compared to three in 2014. The victim was 49 year old career firefighter who suffered a heart attack while participating in air management training.

0 deaths involved in live burn training


Leading Cause and Nature
Nine firefighters died of heart attacks caused by stress/overexertion. This number is significantly down when compared to 22 in 2014. The average age of the victims was 55. The oldest was 72 and the youngest 38.

Fatalities caused by stress/overexertion down by 12 compared to first quarter 2014.


Victims by Rank

Fire Chief: 2
Assistant Chief: 1
Battalion Chief: 1
Captain: 2
Lieutenant: 1
Sergeant: 1
Firefighter: 9
Wildland: 2
Pilot: 1
Engineer: 1


The first three months of 2015 are notable for the low number of on-duty deaths when compared to the same period last year. While every firefighter fatality is a terrible loss, it is important to understand the data especially as it is used in many of our service’s training articles and editorial content. In some cases the authors, while under the best of intentions, will use generalizations when writing and speaking about firefighter fatalities. In rare examples they simply toss out numbers and hope that readers will digest it without question. The significance in knowing the details is not in challenging any unfounded statement (although there is a benefit to that) but in identifying areas of improvement and needed additional efforts in the works that seek to lower the number of firefighter fatalities.



1. On 30 March, in Mississippi, a pilot and technician were killed when the helicopter they were in during a controlled burn crashed.

2. In Georgia a firefighter was caught in a floor collapse during a basement fire. In Pennsylvania a firefighter was caught in a porch collapse during a house fire. In Ohio a firefighter was killed when he fell into an elevator shaft while searching for occupants.

3. The victim and other firefighters had responded to a call for a person with a leg fracture. During the course of treatment it was decided that the patient would be flown from the scene by a helicopter. Apparatus was being moved in an attempt to block to roadway for a landing zone when the victim was struck.



January 2015 On-Duty Deaths

February 2015 On-Duty Deaths

March 2015 On- Duty Death


Photo courtesy of WMAZ video



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BioPicBill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/,, and 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, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine,, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of “Fire Officer: Principles and Practice”, The Secret List and His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health was been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.

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  • Bill, you and I have had the discussion before about “on-duty deaths”. You indicate the intent of listing “on-duty deaths” is “.. identifying areas of improvement and needed additional efforts in the works that seek to lower the number of firefighter fatalities.” If that’s the case then I don’t know why we shouldn’t be listing all 4 of these firefighter struck-by-vehicle deaths that occurred in the first quarter of 2015. You only seem to have one listed (IL Chief). I also have two more similar incidents recorded that involved Paramedics who were not firefighters best I can tell. I am not listing them but their deaths are just as important when identifying an area that definitely needs improvement – roadway incident safety.

    1/07/15 – MD FF/Paramedic struck & killed by FD vehicle at EMS call
    1/10/15 – NY – Firefighter struck & killed by vehicle while directing traffic in front of firehouse(He died in February)
    2/05/15 – IL – Fire Chief struck & killed by fire apparatus at a LZ
    2/16/15 – SC – Firefighter struck & killed by a vehicle at a crash scene

    • Bill Carey says:

      7 January. The victim was operating as a paramedic in his official capacity and therefore has not been listed as an official on-duty death per USFA definition.

      10 January. The victim was a fire-police member killed while stopping traffic so apparatus could respond non-emergency to fill-in at another firehouse. The main lessons or questions rather, are more about why there was a need to stop traffic when the apparatus should have been simply following normal traffic rules as they do any time they drive non-emergency. I edited the post.

      15 February. A mistake completely on my part; I have edited the post.

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