Provisional Report Shows Heart Attack Remains Leading Cause of On-Duty Firefighter Deaths

Tuesday, 05 February 2008

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced there were 115 on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States in 2007. In 2007, there were firefighters lost in 33 states and Washington, DC. South Carolina experienced the highest number of fatalities (11) while Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, and California each suffered more than 5 on-duty losses.

"This past year will be remembered by the entire fire service as one of the most tragic years for firefighters in recent memory," United States Fire Administrator Greg Cade said. "We are committed to continuing our dedicated efforts with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, International Association of Firefighters, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to make sure 2008 is not a repeat of 2007 and a year in which Everyone Goes Home at the end of their emergency response assignments."

Heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 54 firefighters (47%) in 2007. Percentage-wise, this is down from 54 of the 106 (51%) firefighters in 2006. However, heart disease remains the leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths.

On June 18th, Charleston, SC, lost 9 firefighters while working to control a fire in a large sofa warehouse facility. Each year, firefighters becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fireground fatalities. For 2007, 64% of all firefighter fatalities occurred while performing emergency duties. Almost 42% occurred at structure fires with 19 caught or trapped (16.5%). Ten on-duty firefighters died in wildland fires.

Speed and a lack of seat belts contributed to many deaths as well. More than 2 of every 10 firefighter fatalities in 2007 occurred when responding to or returning from an incident. While seat belts and speed were not necessarily factors in all of these fatalities, they were contributing factors for most of them.

These fatality statistics for 2007 are provisional and very much subject to change as the USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on-duty during 2007. The final, annual firefighter fatality report for 2007 is expected to be available by early June.

For additional information on firefighter fatalities, including the annual fatality reports from 1986 through 2006 and the Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990–2000, please visit the USFA Web site.

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