Provisional Report Shows Decrease in Number of Line-of-duty Deaths Due to Heart Attack

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced there were 114 line-of-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States in 2008. Preliminary estimates indicate that heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 50 firefighters (43.8%) in 2008. This shows a decrease from 54 of the 118 (45.7%) firefighters in 2007. However, heart disease remains the leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths.

“It is a tragedy when any firefighter loses his or her life in the line of duty,” said Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). “Year after year, heart disease has remained the leading cause of line-of-duty firefighter deaths. The NVFC has worked hard to reverse this trend through our Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program, and it is promising to see that the number of heart attack-related deaths has declined in 2008. However, any firefighter who dies of heart disease is too many, and we still have a lot more work to do.”

Other causes of 2008 fatalities include wildland fire and vehicles crashes. Wildland fires claimed the lives of 26 on-duty firefighters, a loss more than double the 11 wildland firefighter fatalities in 2007. For 2008, 29 firefighters died as the result of vehicle crashes. Of these, 14 deaths involved aircraft crashes and 15 were motor vehicle crashes. Of the 15 motor vehicle crashes, 6 firefighters were killed in accidents involving their personal vehicles and three died in water tanker crashes. These two vehicle types have historically been most often involved in crashes that take the lives of firefighters. Speed and a lack of seat belt use historically contribute to these incidents.

These fatality statistics for 2008 are provisional and subject to change as the USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on-duty during 2008. The final number of firefighter fatalities will be reported in USFA’s annual firefighter fatality report and is expected to be available by early July.

For additional information on firefighter fatalities, including the annual fatality reports from 1986 through 2007 and the Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990–2000, please visit the USFA web site.

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