False

 

And the tales grow taller on down the line

 

 

billcareyauthorbarnew

 

Previously, there was a discussion that spun itself into firefighter fatalities and everything related.  Among the electronic dialogue were two statements, paraphrased,

 

‘Over and over we see guys getting caught in flashover because you won’t cool from the exterior,’

and

‘Collapse, flashover, out of air are the leading causes of death in actual firefighting.’

 

Yeah, those are false.

 

From 2007 to 23 October 2017 there have been 156 on-duty deaths listed in the activity type Advancing Hoselines (including Wildfire) by the United States Fire Administration (USFA).  Some believe that the majority causes and natures of these deaths are due to flashover, structural collapse, and disorientation.  A review of this data shows that is not correct.

Data collected for this review came from the largest activity type to have a deep number of incidents that would reflect most fire department operations.  Past research and writing on the subject have indicated that firefighter deaths involving search and rescue and ventilation, regarding actual structure fires, are also quite low.

See:
On-Duty Deaths, January – June 2017

On-Duty Deaths Under Search, 2011 – 2016

On-Duty Deaths Advancing Hoselines in 2016

Currently in 2017 eight fatalities are listed as advancing hoselines. Five of the eight are due to cardiac or similar trouble where the victim fell ill either during or after the incident.  Of the currently 76 firefighter fatalities this year, not one involves a firefighter dying while on a hoseline inside a burning structure.  One listed under search and rescue was caught in a collapse during a commercial structure fire and one listed under ventilation fell from a tower ladder bucket during a residential structure fire.

Of the total of the 156 in this period 43% are due to fire behavior, structural collapse, disorientation and the like.

 

Advancing Hoselines (including Wildfire)
2016

Two out of four fatalities, 50%

2015

Five out of nine fatalities, 56%

2014

Eight out of 17 fatalities, 47%

2013

Nine out of 28 fatalities, 32%

2012

Five out of 14 fatalities, 36%

2011

Four out of 15 fatalities, 27%

2010

Three out of 11 fatalities, 30%

2009

Three out of 12 fatalities, 25%

2008

11 out of 17 fatalities, 67%

2007

18 out of 22 fatalities, 82%

 

The significantly higher percentages in some of the years presented is in part due to multiple fatality incidents, especially 2007, and 2008. In other years, the percentage is high due to the total number being small. Note that in 2013 two multiple fatality incidents claimed 24 firefighters but that year’s total had a low percentage that died due to the assumed causes.   These are the multiple fatality incidents:

 

2014

Toledo, Ohio: Two firefighters killed

Boston, Massachusetts: Two firefighters killed

 

2013

Houston, Texas: Five firefighters killed

Prescott, Arizona: Nineteen firefighters killed

 

2012

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Two firefighters killed

Missoula, Montana: Two firefighters killed

Charlotte, North Carolina: Four firefighters killed

 

2011

San Francisco, California: Two firefighters killed

Britton, South Dakota: Two firefighters killed

 

2009

Craigsville, West Virginia: Two firefighters killed

Houston, Texas: Two firefighters killed

 

2008

Salisbury, North Carolina: Two firefighters killed

Colerain Township, Ohio: Two firefighters killed

 

2007

Charleston, South Carolina: Eight firefighters killed*

Manhattan, New York: Two firefighters killed

 

*USFA data records eight Charleston firefighters as having died while advancing hoselines and one as having died while doing a search, in the Sofa Super Store fire.

 

The Majority Cause and Nature While Advancing Hoselines (including Wildfire)

 

2017

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 4

Wildland: 3

 

2016

Wildland: 2

Disoriented: 1

Structure Collapse: 1

 

2015

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 4

Structure Collapse: 4

Disoriented: 1

 

2014

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 6

Fire Behavior: 5

Structure Collapse: 2

Plane Crash: 1

Disoriented: 1

Struck By: 1

Wildfire: 1

 

2013

Wildfire: 19

Structure Collapse: 6 (including Houston)

Fire Behavior: 2

Ran Out of Air: 1

 

2012

Plane Crash: 6

Structure Collapse: 4

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 2

Fire Behavior: 1

Wildfire: 1

 

2011

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 6

Fire Behavior: 4

Wildfire: 3

Structure Collapse: 2

 

 

2010

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 3

Vehicle Accident: 2

Disoriented: 1

Fall: 1

Fire Behavior: 1

Struck By: 1

Structure Collapse: 1

Wildfire: 1

 

2009

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 5

Asphyxiation: 3

Fire Behavior: 1

Plane Crash: 1

Trauma: 1

 

2008

Structure Collapse: 6

Fire Behavior: 4

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 4

Out of Air: 1

Plane Crash: 1

Shot: 1

 

2007

Structure Collapse: 13 (includes Charleston)

Fire Behavior: 4 (includes live burn training)

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 2

Disoriented: 2

Electrocution: 1

Exposure: 1

 

By the numbers of each year totaled, Structure Collapse has killed the most firefighters, however, we need to note that two multiple fatality incidents (Houston, five firefighters; Charleston, eight firefighters) are an anomaly to the individual data. So, minus the 13 killed in two incidents, Structure Collapse is then second to Heart Attack and other cardiovascular related deaths.  That doesn’t mean that we are not taking away their value, but that they exist as an exception to the average.

 

Structure Collapse: 39 (26 minus the multiple fatality incidents)

Heart Attack, CVA; Stress/Overexertion; Ill; Unknown*: 36

Fire Behavior: 22

Disoriented; Out of Air; Asphyxiation: 11

* In the past two years, the USFA has been recording firefighter on-duty deaths that are not immediately reported as a heart attack or CVA as ‘Unknown’.  In the narrative of these notifications there are indications that the death is cardiac in nature, but the nature and cause has not been immediately identified, thus they are unknown.

 

Even if we include the multiple fatality anomaly (13 deaths in two incidents), heart attacks and similar causes still hold a considerable majority. Almost double the number killed due to fire behavior and triple those killed due to disorientation or related, heart attacks and/or cardiovascular problems are a leading killer of firefighters directly involved in firefighting operations.

 

 

Captain Anonymous Doesn’t Ride Here” Read our comment policy

 

BillCareyBioPicBill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Fire Group, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.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 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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