Monday, June 13, 2011

NFPA Research Report on Firefighter Fatalities 2010 Released

According to the recently published NFPA Research Report on Firefighter Fatalities in the United States 2010; In 2010, a total of 72 on-duty firefighter deaths occurred in the U.S. This is another sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009, and the lowest annual total since NFPA began conducting this annual study in 1977.
  • Stress, exertion, and other medical-related issues, which usually result in heart attacks or other sudden cardiac events, continued to account for the largest number of fatalities.
  • More than half of the deaths resulted from overexertion, stress and related medical issues.
  • Of the 39 deaths in this category, 34 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths (usually heart attacks) and five were due to strokes or brain aneurysm.

  • Download the NFPA 2010 FF LODD PFD Report, HERE
  • NFPA Web Site Link, HERE
2010 Experience

In 2010, a total of 72 on-duty firefighter deaths occurred in the U.S. This is another sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009, and the lowest annual total since NFPA began conducting this annual study in 1977. The average number of deaths annually over the past 10 years is 95.

Figure 1 shows firefighter deaths for the years 1977 through 2010, excluding the 340 firefighter deaths at the World Trade Center in 2001.

Of the 72 firefighters who died while on duty in 2010, 44 were volunteer firefighters, 25 were career firefighters, two were employees of state land management agencies, and one was a member of a prison inmate crew.

In 2010, there were four double-fatality incidents. Two firefighters died in a vehicle crash while returning from a training weekend, two died in an apparatus crash while responding to a structure fire and four firefighters were killed during interior operations at two structure fires. More details are presented throughout the report.

Analyses in the NFPA Research Report examine the types of duty associated with firefighter deaths, the cause and nature of fatal injuries to firefighters, and the ages of the firefighters who died. They highlight deaths in intentionally-set fires and in motor vehicle-related incidents.

Finally, the NFPA study presents summaries of individual incidents that illustrate important concerns in firefighter safety.

The victims include members of local career and volunteer fire departments; seasonal, full-time and contract employees of state and federal agencies who have fire suppression responsibilities as part of their job description; prison inmates serving on firefighting crews; military personnel performing assigned fire suppression activities; civilian firefighters working at military installations; and members of industrial fire brigades. Fatal injuries and illnesses are included even in cases where death is considerably delayed.

When the injury and the death occur in different years, the incident is counted in the year of the injury.

The NFPA recognizes that a comprehensive study of on-duty firefighter fatalities would include chronic illnesses (such as cancer or heart disease) that prove fatal and that arise from occupational factors. In practice, there is no mechanism for identifying fatalities that are due to illnesses that develop over long periods of time. This creates an incomplete picture when comparing occupational illnesses to other factors as causes of firefighter deaths. This is recognized as a gap the size of which cannot be identified at this time because of limitations in tracking the exposure of firefighters to toxic environments and substances and the potential long-term effects of such exposures.

The NFPA also recognizes that other organizations report numbers of duty-related firefighter fatalities using different, more expansive, definitions that include deaths that occurred when the victims were off-duty. (See, for example, the USFA and National Fallen Firefighters Memorial websites.*)

Readers comparing reported losses should carefully consider the definitions and inclusion criteria used in any study.

Type of Duty

Figure 2 shows the distribution of the 72 deaths by type of duty. The largest share of deaths occurred while firefighters were operating on the fire ground (21 deaths).



This total is well below the average 32 deaths per year on the fire ground over the past 10 years, and less than a third the average of 69 deaths per year in the first 10 years of this study (1977 through 1986). The low number of fire ground deaths in 2010 is not only because of the small number of multiple-fatality fire incidents – the number of fire incidents resulting in firefighter deaths in 2010 was the lowest recorded, with 19 fatal fires, compared to an average of 28 annually in the previous 10 years. Fourteen of the 21 fire ground deaths occurred at 12 structure fires. Deaths in structure fires are discussed in more detail later in this report. There were seven deaths at seven wildland-related incidents.

There were no firefighter deaths at vehicle fires in 2010.
  • Twelve of the 21 fire ground victims were career firefighters, eight were volunteer firefighters and one was a firefighter with a state land management agency.
  • The average number of career firefighter deaths on the fire ground over the past 10 years is 12 deaths per year, while the average for volunteer firefighters is 16 deaths per year.
  • An additional four or more deaths of state or federal wildland management agency personnel, on average, occur on wildland fires each year.
Eighteen firefighters died while responding to or returning from emergency calls. It is important to note that deaths in this category are not necessarily the result of crashes. Twelve of the deaths were due to sudden cardiac events or stroke, five occurred in four collisions or rollovers and one firefighter was crushed between two fire department vehicles as one was backed into the station. All 18 victims were volunteer firefighters. All crashes and sudden cardiac deaths are discussed in more detail later.

Eleven deaths occurred during training activities. Two firefighters died when their personal vehicle crashed while they were returning from a training weekend. Four firefighters collapsed and died of sudden cardiac events after training exercises and one died during unsupervised physical fitness activities. One suffered a stroke after a weekly training meeting at the station, one suffered a brain aneurysm after hose loading training, one died after being exposed to smoke at a wildland live fire training exercise, and one hit his elbow during training and died of necrotizing fasciitis (also known as flesh-eating disease).

Five firefighters died at non-fire emergencies, including two at the scene of motor vehicle crashes (one victim was struck by a vehicle and the other suffered sudden cardiac death), one drowned during a swift water rescue, one died after clearing downed trees after a storm and one was asphyxiated while attempting to rescue a worker from a manhole without SCBA and before the oxygen levels were tested.

The remaining 17 firefighters died while involved in a variety of non-emergency-related on-duty activities. These activities included normal administrative or station duties (11 deaths), fire station construction projects (two deaths), vehicle maintenance (one death), driving to check on a wildland fire the previous day (one death), and a work project in a wildland area (one death). One firefighter died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while on-duty.


Report Authors

Firefighter Fatalities in the United States 2010
Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc and Joseph L. Molis, June 2011. 33 pages.
Overall statistics on line-of-duty firefighter fatalities in 2010, including non-incident-related deaths. Includes patterns, trends, career vs. volunteer comparisons, and brief narratives on selected incidents.

Abstract: In 2010, a total of 72 on-duty firefighter deaths occurred in the U.S. This is another sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009, and the lowest annual total since NFPA began conducting this annual study in 1977. Stress, exertion, and other medical-related issues, which usually result in heart attacks or other sudden cardiac events, continued to account for the largest number of fatalities. More than half of the deaths resulted from overexertion, stress and related medical issues. Of the 39 deaths in this category, 34 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths (usually heart attacks) and five were due to strokes or brain aneurysm.


Download this report. (PDF, 151 KB)
See older versions of this report.
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