Heart Attack Remains Leading Cause of Line-of-Duty Deaths

Thursday, 03 February 2011

Total number of firefighter fatalities continues to decline
In a provisional report released in January, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced that there were 85 on-duty firefighter fatalities in the U.S. in 2010, a six percent decrease from the 90 fatalities reported for 2009. Heart attack remained the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths by far, causing over half of the fatalities in 2010.

"When evaluating the trend in on-duty firefighter fatalities over more than three decades, the past two years have seemed to reflect a possible change in the firefighting culture of the United States where Everyone Goes Home, including all firefighters," said Acting U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn  Gaines. "Working closely with our partners, USFA will continue every effort to be sure that when it comes to firefighter health and safety this downward trend in on-duty firefighter deaths continues."

Heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 51 firefighters (60%) in 2010, nearly the same proportion of firefighter deaths from heart attack or stroke (58%) in 2009. Vehicle crashes remained the second leading cause of death with 11 fatalities, although this is a decrease from the 16 fatalities in 2009.

“In the last two years we have seen a decline in the number of firefighters who have died in the line-of-duty,” said National Volunteer Fire Council Philip C. Stittleburg. “While this is a positive trend, we must strive to protect every one of our brothers and sisters so that they can return home safe and avoid tragedy. With heart attack and vehicle crashes consistently topping the list of on-duty fatality causes, the NVFC strongly encourages all departments to turn their focus on the health and safety of their personnel and make the B.E.S.T. Practices a priority in their departments.”

The B.E.S.T. Practices are a series of health and safety guidelines developed by the NVFC that all departments should implement and adhere to. They cover the topic areas of Behavior, Equipment, Standards and Codes, and Training. Learn about the B.E.S.T. Practices, download the B.E.S.T. Practices reminder poster for your department, and find additional health and safety resources at www.nvfc.org/health_safety. Find additional resources for keeping your personnel heart-healthy through the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program.

The 2010 firefighter fatality statistics are provisional and may change as the USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on-duty during 2010.  The final number of firefighter fatalities will be reported in USFA’s annual firefighter fatality report, expected to be available by July. For additional information on firefighter fatalities, including the annual fatality reports from 1986 through 2009 and the Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990-2000, please visit www.usfa.dhs.gov.


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