In the July/August NFPA Journal, a feature section shares the completed 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report. While the report highlights the lowering trend of line-of-duty-deaths in the United States, those occurring on wildland fires continue. The report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies provides insight on these loss-events and affords all of us a moment of reflection on how these tragedies could be avoided in the future.
As the Journal article shares, “An important milestone was achieved in the United States in 2019: For the first time, fewer than 50 deaths of firefighters occurred while they were on the job. The article continues that, “Other important achievements included the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, the fewest deaths in road vehicle crashes, and the lowest number of cardiac deaths. There were no multiple-fatality incidents in 2019, the only time that has been the case since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977.”
While these trends are lower, 48 firefighters in 2019 gave the ultimate sacrifice while on duty related to injuries and illnesses. Of that count, six died while engaged or responding to a wildfire or prescribed burn and one in wildland firefighter training. Two were firefighters who had heart attacks while responding; one from fatal burns when their vehicle was overrun by flames; one in a water tanker trash responding to a wildfire; one from heat exposure during a training exercise; and two while engaged in prescribed burns. You can read about some of these and others in the report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies.
Rita Fahy, NFPA Applied Research Manager and lead author of the 2019 report, shared some historic context with me on wildfire firefighter losses over the past 10 years. She explained that, “Of the 670 U.S. firefighters killed on-duty over the past 10 years (2010-2019), 90 were killed on wildland fires or during prescribed burns, and at least 20 others were killed while responding to or returning from such fires. These included volunteer and career firefighters as well as employees and contractors with federal and state wildland management agencies, inmate firefighters and supervisors, and military firefighters. In addition to those fatalities directly related to fires, another 21 wildland firefighters were killed while on-duty.”
In addition to the NFPA Journal article summary, you can read the entire 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report. As always, our thoughts are with the families of the fallen and we are again reminded of the sacrifices firefighters give to ensure the safety of others.