April 2016 On-Duty Death Details

 

Another violent EMS incident

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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.

 

April almost closed out as the month with the lowest number of on-duty deaths in three years, but that was not to be on the last day of the month. Four firefighter fatalities that month involved a crash, violence and firefighters down on the fireground.

The first on-duty death of the month started on 30 March when an Alabama firefighting father and son were involved in a personally-owned vehicle crash.  The two had earlier responded from home to a woods fire.  Once cleared from the scene, they began to drive back home.  For a reason not yet determined, the vehicle veered off the road and struck a logging trailer parked nearby. The father and son were significantly injured and pinned.  After an extensive extrication, both were flown to a hospital in Birmingham.  The father, a 56-year old volunteer firefighter, succumbed to his injuries on 2 April [1].

His death is the fourth fatality of the year involving vehicle collisions and the second involving personally-owned vehicles.  In January a North Carolina volunteer firefighter was killed after he lost control of his vehicle while responding to an emergency call [2].

Violence during an EMS call was the cause of another firefighter’s death in April.  On 15 March, members of the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department, Maryland responded to a home for a welfare check [3].  A family member was unable to make contact with the relative inside a home and requested help.  Based on the relative’s reported medical condition, personnel decided to force entry into the home.  As they entered, the occupant fired upon the firefighters, striking several including the relative who made the initial call [4].  A career firefighter/paramedic was flown to a trauma center where he later succumbed to his injuries.

The shooting in Maryland was followed by immediate reader reactions questioning why the fire department was doing welfare check and the call for being armed and/or wearing were body armor. The chief of the department, Marc Bashoor, would tell the press later that the personnel on the scene “did everything right” with the information they had [5].  A police investigation of the incident would end with no criminal charges filed [6, 7].  This would be the second on-duty death of the year involving a shooting during an EMS incident.  In January an Arkansas firefighter was shot and killed when he entered the home of a seizure patient [8].

A Memphis firefighter would die on 17 April while fighting a residential structure fire [9]. A news report says the 57-year old lieutenant was looking for hot spots after the fire when he collapsed.  Other firefighters quickly removed him and began CPR before he was transported to a hospital. He succumbed to his injuries the next day [10].

The final fatality of the month involved a commercial structure fire.  On 30 April a North Carolina firefighter died while battling a blaze in a strip mall [11].  Initial reports of the young volunteer’s nature of death would be smoke inhalation, according the county assistant fire marshal [12].

 

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: 1 (1)

Victim Collapsed after Fire Knockdown/Under Control/During Overhaul: 1 (1)

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 1 (1)

Victim collapsed inside after Fire Knockdown/Under Control/During Overhaul: 1 (1)

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0

Multi-Fatality Incidents: 0

Nature of Death

Asphyxiation: 0 (1)

Burns: 0 (1)

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0

Crushed: 0

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 0 (6)

Not Stated: 0

Other: 0

Trauma: 1 (3)

Unknown: 2 (7)

Violence: 1 (2)

Cause of Death

Assault: 0

Caught/Trapped: 1 (2)

Collapse: 0

Contact With: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0 (1)

Lost: 0

Other: 0

Out of Air: 0 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 0 (8)

Struck by: 1 (3)

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 1 (1)

Unknown: 1 (4)

Average Age: 42

Youngest: 20

Oldest: 57

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 0 (3)

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

Volunteer: 2 (11)

Career: 2 (10)

Paid on Call: 0 (1)

Rank/Position

County Fire Coordinator: 0

Fire Chief: 0

Deputy Chief: 0 (1)

Assistant Chief: 0 (1)

Battalion Chief: 0

Major: 0

Captain: 0 (1)

Lieutenant: 1 (3)

Sergeant: 0

Safety Officer: 0 (1)

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0Firefighter: 2 (9)
1: Posthumously promoted to Lieutenant

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0

Recruit/Trainee: 0 (2)

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (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: 0 (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: 1 (3)

Uncooperative/Combative Patient: 1 (3)
Assault: 0 (1)
Shooting: 1 (2)

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding) Vehicle/Apparatus: 1 (4)
Personal Vehicle: 1 (2)
Department Apparatus: 0 (2)

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0 (2)
Search and Rescue training: 0 (1)
Physical 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: 1 (8)
1: Victim killed in POV crash while driving home after emergency call

 

References
1. Charles M Tucker, Lynn Fire and Rescue, Alabama
2. Joshua Woods, Siler City Fire Department, North Carolina
3. John Ernest Ulmschneider, Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department, Maryland
4. “Maryland Firefighters Shot, One Killed, During Investigation of EMS Call” FirefighterNation.com 16 April 2016
5. “Maryland Firefighters “Did Everything Right” FirefighterNation.com 18 April 2016
6. “No Charges in Shooting of Maryland Firefighters” FirefighterNation.com 18 April 2016
7. “Investigation Continues into Death of Maryland Firefighter” FirefighterNation.com 20 April 2016
8. “Arkansas Firefighter Shot, Killed on EMS Call” FirefighterNation.com 22 January 2016
9. Rodney Eddins, Memphis Fire Department, Tennessee
11. “Memphis Firefighter Dies after Fire” FirefighterNation.com 18 April 2016
11. Richard Sheltra, Pineville-Morrow Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue, Inc., North Carolina
12. “Official Announces North Carolina Firefighter’s Nature of Death” FirefighterNation.com 2 May 2016

Photo courtesy of WJLA

 

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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, and other sites. His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health was nominated for a 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.

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