March 2016 On-Duty Death Details

 

Progress and Sadness

MarchODDCover

 

 

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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.

 

In March we experienced six on-duty deaths.  The average age of the victims was 38, with the oldest being 68 and the youngest 32.  The majority (five) were career firefighters, including one operating in a paid-on-call capacity.  The ranks among the fallen ranged from a captain to a fire department recruit.  None of the fallen firefighters during this period died inside a burning structure.

On March 2, a 57-year old paid-on-call captain fell ill inside his Maine firehouse as he went to perform maintenance on an ambulance.  This occurred within an hour of responding to an emergency call and despite immediate treatment by his coworkers he died at the scene.

A heart attack was the nature of death for the second firefighter fatality of the month.  On March 12 a Pennsylvania firefighter/safety officer was responding driver-only in a mobile air unit to a house fire when he became ill.  The apparatus left the roadway and stopped after traveling several hundred feet.  The victim was rescued by residents nearby and other first responders.  He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.  At age 68, he becomes the third firefighter fatality of 2016 over the age of 65.

A tragic accident occurred on the fireground in South Carolina on March 20.  The victim was riding on a fire engine at the scene when he fell off and was run over when the apparatus reversed.  The details of the incident remain brief and the investigation is being handled by state authorities.  His is the third death of 2106 involving vehicle operations and the second involving department apparatus.

Also on March 20, an industrial firefighter died while performing a check on fire extinguishers in his plant.  The victim was found unresponsive in a fifth-floor elevator motor room.  Asphyxiation due to nitrogen exposure is listed as the cause of death.  This incident is also being investigated by state and federal authorities.

A career Texas engineer died in his residence on March 23.  The 45-year old firefighter became ill after exercising while at home after leaving his shift.  He had made an emergency response during that period.  The cause and nature of his death are still to be determined.

The last firefighter fatality of March involved the death of a recruit in career Texas fire department.  On March 31 the victim collapsed while negotiating an obstacle course at the department’s fire academy.  Other recruits as well as medics immediately initiated CPR.  He was transported to a trauma center where resuscitation efforts continued.  Unfortunately, the 32-year old recruit was pronounced dead at the hospital.  The nature of his death is still to be determined.

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: 1 (1)

Burns: 0 (1)

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0

Crushed: 0

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 1 (6)

Not Stated: 0

Other: 0

Trauma: 1 (2)

Unknown: 3 (5)

Violence: 0 (1)

 

Cause of Death

Assault: 0

Caught/Trapped: 0 (1)

Collapse: 0

Contact With: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 1 (1)

Lost: 0

Other: 0

Out of Air: 1 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 3 (8)

Struck by: 0 (2)

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 0

Unknown: 1 (3)

 

Average Age: 38

Youngest: 32

Oldest: 68

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (3)

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

 

Volunteer: 1 (9)

Career: 5 (8)

Paid on Call: 1 (1)

 

Rank/Position

County Fire Coordinator: 0

Fire Chief: 0

Deputy Chief: 0 (1)

Assistant Chief: 0 (1)

Battalion Chief: 0

Major: 0

Captain: 1 (1)

Lieutenant: 0 (2)

Sergeant: 0

Safety Officer: 1 (1)

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0

Firefighter: 2 (6)

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0

Recruit/Trainee: 1 (2)

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 1 (2)

Fire-Police: 0

Fire Marshal: 0

Department of Defense: 0

Chaplain: 0

Wildland Full-Time: 0

Wildland Part-Time: 0 (1)

 

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 2

 

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0

Fire Attack: 0 (2)

Advancing Hoseline: 0 (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: 1 (3)

Personal Vehicle: 0 (1)
Department Apparatus: 2 (2)

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 1 (2)

Search and Rescue training: 0 (1)
Physical 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: 3 (7)
1: Victim died while performing vehicle maintenance one hour after having responded to an EMS call
1: Victim died of nitrogen exposure during fire extinguisher check
1: Victim fell ill at home while exercising after shift and within 24 hours of an emergency response

 

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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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