Despite continued advances in firefighting equipment, Incident Command System training, operations and safety training and improved communications, 107 U.S. firefighters died in the line of duty in 2004, a figure released this week by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Our nation’s firefighters lost in the line of duty is heartbreakingly real, directly impacting their communities, their fire departments, their fellow firefighters – and especially the families they leave behind,” said Michael Brown, under secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response. “As President Bush has noted, these men and women are sacrificing daily for the security and safety of their communities. We as a nation mourn the loss of these firefighters.”
In addition to last year’s 107 firefighter deaths, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) has learned of an additional firefighter fatality in 2003 and a firefighter death in 2004 as the result of an incident in 2002. These fatality statistics for 2004 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 2004. The final annual firefighter fatality report for 2004 is expected to be available by early June.
“Firefighters continue to give their lives while serving their communities,” said R. David Paulision, U.S. Fire administrator. “In 2004, a number of individuals and organizations came together to start the Line of Duty Death prevention initiatives. I look forward to working with the entire fire service and stakeholder organizations, in making sure the 16 initiatives become a part of every department. We as a fire service must come together and take those actions necessary to ensure everyone goes homeafter every call,.” said Paulison.
There were a total of 104 incidents that took the lives of firefighters in 2004:
* Career firefighters, those who are employed full-time as firefighters, comprised 29 deaths (27%) in 2004.
* Volunteer, seasonal, and part-time firefighters accounted for 78 deaths.
* Half of the firefighters that died in 2004 died from traumatic injuries such as asphyxiation, burns, drowning, vehicle crashes, and other physical injuries.
* The balance of firefighter deaths in 2004 were attributed to non-traumatic injuries such as heart attacks and strokes. Heart attacks caused the deaths of 49 on-duty firefighters.
* Nine firefighters died in 2004 in response to wildland fires (grass, trees, brush). This is the lowest level of wildland-related firefighter deaths since 1996 and represents a significant drop from the 29 wildland-related firefighter deaths that occurred in 2003.
* Three firefighters were killed when fire apparatus backed over them.
* A Pennsylvania incident occurred at the fire station and was not associated with an emergency response.
* Five firefighters were killed when they were struck by passing vehicles at the scene of an emergency.
* Additionally, four firefighters were killed in falls from fire department vehicles.
* A Massachusetts firefighter died when he fell from a responding engine company. This department also suffered a fatal fall injury involving fire apparatus in 1984.
* A Kentucky firefighter was shot and killed as she approached an emergency that involved domestic violence.
* Twenty firefighters died in vehicle collisions.
* Seven deaths involved the crash of firefighters’ personal vehicles.
* Three firefighters died in aircraft crashes; one in a medical helicopter and two wildland fire fighting aircraft.
* Five firefighters died in crashes that involved responding fire apparatus.
* Firefighter deaths took place in 40 states. Pennsylvania had the highest number of deaths with 17 firefighters killed; Kentucky suffered seven deaths, followed by California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey with five deaths each.
* The average age of firefighters killed while on-duty in 2004 was 47.
* The average age of a firefighter that died of a heart attack or stroke was 52, and the average age of firefighters who died of traumatic injuries was 42.
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