January 2016 On-Duty Death Details


Patient care was dangerous in January





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.

Six firefighter fatalities were recorded in the first month of 2016.  The nature of each death covers a wide range of incidents, from the stress of physical training to an act of unpredictable violence during an EMS call. This month’s data also highlights the wide range of age in the volunteer fire service.

The average age of the victims is 46.  Volunteer firefighters accounted for the youngest, 24, and the oldest, 79.  Among all the victims, four were volunteer firefighters and two were career firefighters.  One of those listed as a volunteer was a 47-year old trainee.

Only one death is attributed to a burning structure.  On September 10, 2015, a 79-year old volunteer deputy chief in Wyoming was operating at a grass fire that included a bunker.  During firefighting operations the victim fell through the ceiling of the bunker and became seriously injured.  Over the next several months he went through several surgeries before passing away on January 13, 2016.  His cause and nature of death is listed as Caught or Trapped, and Burns while Advancing Hoselines.

Violence was related to two of this month’s fatalities, each one involving EMS/Patient Care.  On March 18, 2014 a 45-year old career Ohio firefighter suffered a heart attack while trying to restrain an uncooperative patient in an emergency room.  After several surgeries, the victim was placed in hospice care in November 2015 before passing away on January 18, 2016.

The second violent incident occurred on January 22, 2016.  A 29-year old Arkansas volunteer firefighter responded to an EMS call less than a mile from his residence.  Upon entry into the home the firefighter was shot and killed by the patient.

Vehicle operations claimed one firefighter in January.  A 24-year old North Carolina volunteer firefighter was killed in a crash involving his personal vehicle.  The victim was responding to an emergency call when he lost control of the vehicle.

A heart attack during training was what claimed a Michigan firefighter trainee.  During search and rescue training at the local fire academy, the 47-year old victim became ill and collapsed.  He passed away later in the evening at a local hospital.  Heart attack, and stress/overexertion, was the leading nature and cause of death 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 Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0
Deaths Involving Residential Structural Collapse during Fire: 0

Victim inside Structure: 0
Victim outside Structure: 0

Deaths Involving Commercial Structural Collapse during Fire: 1 (1)

Victim inside Structure: 0
Victim outside Structure: 1 (1)

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: 1 (1)
Cerebrovascular Accident: 0
Crushed: 0
Drowning: 0
Electrocution: 0
Exposure: 0
Heart Attack: 3 (3)
Not Stated: 0
Other: 0
Trauma: 0
Unknown: 0
Violence: 1 (1)

Cause of Death
Assault: 0
Caught/Trapped: 1 (1)
Collapse: 0
Contact With: 0
Exposure: 0
Fall: 0
Lost: 0
Other: 0
Stress/Overexertion: 3 (3)
Struck by: 1 (1)
Trauma: 0
Vehicle Collision: 0
Unknown: 0

Average Age: 46
Youngest: 24
Oldest: 79

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (1)
Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0

Volunteer: 4 (4)
Career: 2 (2)

Paid on Call: 0

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

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death
Incident Command: 0
Fire Attack: 1 (1)

Advancing Hoseline: 1 (1)
Search: 0
Ventilation (Roof): 0

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

Extrication: 0
Pump Operations: 0
Water Supply: 0
Overhaul/Salvage: 0
On Scene: 0
Scene Safety: 0
Support: 0

EMS/Patient Care: 2 (2)

Uncooperative/Combative Patient: 2 (2)
Assault: 1 (1)
Shooting: 1 (1)

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding)/Apparatus: 1 (1)
Personal Vehicle: 1 (1)

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 1 (1)

Search and Rescue training: 1 (1)

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: 0


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BillCareyBioPicBill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.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 nominated for a 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.

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