It goes without saying that firefighting is dangerous. Occupational based exposures are being shown through more and more research that chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart related disease, and in behavioral health issues that may end suicide or substance abuse. Risks to firefighters have increased simply by responding to more and more roadway incidents. We have looked at issues this week that are increasing the numbers of firefighter death. We have provided some resources to assist in these areas. There are many valuable resources to understand how and why firefighter are killed or injured on duty.

The National Fire Protection Association released its Firefighter Fatalities Report for 2018. Cardiac events continue to be the leading cause of firefighter deaths.

Some highlights from the report as cited by NFPA were as follows:

  • The 64 on-duty firefighter deaths in 2018 represent the eighth time in the last 10 years that the total has been below 70.
  • There were 25 deaths at fires in 2018, with the largest share in structure fires (13), followed by wildland (10), a vehicle fire and a gas main explosion.
  • Sudden cardiac death accounted for about 40% of the on-duty fatalities.
  • The number of firefighters struck and killed by vehicles dropped from 10 in 2017 to 3 in 2018.
  • There was 1 murder of a firefighter on responding to a fire call.
  • Read: the NFPA Fire Fatalities Report for 2018
  • Watch: VDOT: National Traffic Incident Management Responder Training Program

It should be noted that the 64 Line of Duty Deaths cited by NFPA differs from the 84 recognized by The United States Fire Administration, 20 of whom are Hometown Heroes. The Hometown Heroes Act passed in 2003 gives recognition to firefighters who suffer a fatal injury in the 24 hour period after a duty shift or emergency call.

The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention (FFFIP) Program is another resource and conducts investigations of line of duty deaths to address the occupational hazards firefighters face on a daily basis. The investigations heed comprehensive reports that are released so that the fire service can learn lessons and enact practices to avoid these events. You can sign up to receive notifications when reports are released.

Read: NIOSH FFFIP Program

Additional information or resources can be obtained by contacting Briant Atkins, Chief Safety Officer at VDFP at 804-249-2173 or