February 2016 On-Duty Death Details


The first wildland firefighter fatality of 2016

In this Feb. 25, 2016 still frame from video provided by KABC-TV, a Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter lifts an inmate firefighter after she was injured fighting a brush fire in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, Calif. California corrections officials say the firefighter, identified as Shawna Lynn Jones, died Friday, Feb. 26, a day after she was struck by a large rock while working the fire. Jones is the third inmate firefighter to die on a fire line since the program began in 1943. (KABC-TV via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT TV OUT





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.

The bright side of this information is that to date the fire service has not had an on-duty death involving firefighting inside a residential or commercial structure and firefighting inside an abandoned structure. Also notable is zero fatalities involving fire apparatus or lack of seat belt use.

Five firefighter fatalities were recorded in February 2016.  Heart attacks and other currently unknown medical issues were the cause and nature for four of the five victims.  This month saw the first fireground death of a wildland firefighter and the oldest firefighter fatality to date.

All but one of the victims were volunteers.  The average age was 48 years old.  The youngest victim was 22; the oldest 71.

On February 22 a CAL FIRE inmate firefighter was struck in the head by a large boulder while she was working with a hand crew at a fire in Malibu, California.  The victim was immediately treated and airlifted to UCLA Medical Center. As directed by family wishes, the 22-year old was taken off of life support and her organs donated.  Officials from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state that she was the third inmate firefighter to die on a fire line since the program began in 1943.  Her death is the second to date listed under the activity type, ‘Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack (including Wildland).  The first involved a victim fighting a grass fire in September 2015 but passed away in January 2016.

Heart attacks claimed two victims in February.  The first occurred in Kentucky on February 10 when a 48-year old volunteer lieutenant was stricken while on duty at his firehouse.  The second happened on February 14 when a Kansas volunteer assistant chief fell ill and suddenly collapsed during a meeting three days earlier.  The 71-year old victim had responded to an alarm prior to the meeting.

The remaining two fatalities each died of a nature and cause yet to be determined.  A 53-year old North Carolina volunteer firefighter fell ill as he was leaving fire department after training.  Immediate assistance and ALS was provided but the victim unfortunately passed away at the hospital on February 2.

In Connecticut on February 7 a 50-year old volunteer chief driver complained of not feeling well after having responded to an emergency call.  The victim died at home several hours later.

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: 0 (1)

Victim inside Structure: 0
Victim outside Structure: 0 (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: 0 (1)
Cerebrovascular Accident: 0
Crushed: 0
Drowning: 0
Electrocution: 0
Exposure: 0
Heart Attack: 2 (5)
Not Stated: 0
Other: 0
Trauma: 1 (1)
Unknown: 2 (2)
Violence: 0 (1)

Cause of Death
Assault: 0
Caught/Trapped: 0 (1)
Collapse: 0
Contact With: 0
Exposure: 0
Fall: 0
Lost: 0
Other: 0
Stress/Overexertion: 2 (5)
Struck by: 1 (2)
Trauma: 0
Vehicle Collision: 0
Unknown: 2 (2)

Average Age: 48
Youngest: 22
Oldest: 71
Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (2)
Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0

Volunteer: 4 (8)
Career: 1 (3)
Paid on Call: 0

County Fire Coordinator: 0
Fire Chief: 0
Deputy Chief: 0 (1)
Assistant Chief: 1 (1)
Battalion Chief: 0
Major: 0
Captain: 0
Lieutenant: 1 (2)
Sergeant: 0
Safety Officer: 0
Fire Crew Supervisor: 0
Firefighter: 1 (4)
Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0
Pilot: 0
Recruit/Trainee: 0 (1)
Driver/Operator/Engineer: 1 (1)
Fire-Police: 0
Fire Marshal: 0
Department of Defense: 0
Chaplain: 0
Wildland Full-Time: 0
Wildland Part-Time: 1 (1)

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death
Incident Command: 0
Fire Attack: 1 (2)

Advancing Hoseline: 1 (2)
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: 0 (2)

Uncooperative/Combative Patient: 0 (2)
Assault: 0 (1)
Shooting: 0 (1)

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding) Vehicle/Apparatus: 0 (1)
Personal Vehicle: 0 (1)

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0 (1)

Search and Rescue training: 0 (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: 4 (4)
1: Victim fell ill at training meeting
1: Victim complained of being ill after emergency response; died at home
1: victim suffered heart attack while at station
1: Victim suffered heart attack at training meeting; died three days later



January 2016 On-Duty Deaths in Detail


KABC-TV/AP photo


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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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