The number of firefighter injuries fell to a two-decade low in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday.
The NFPA study showed 71,875 injuries were suffered in the line of duty last year, an 8 percent drop from the previous 12 months.
In the report, injuries by type of duty, exposures to infectious diseases and how a community's size affects the number of injuries within a fire department are outlined.
"Firefighters work in varied environments under extreme conditions that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury," said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA.
"This analysis helps NFPA and local fire departments gain a better understanding of how injuries occur so fire departments can implement the best solutions to minimize inherent risks."
Among the key findings from the report:
- An estimated 15,000, or 20.8 percent, of all firefighter injuries, resulted in lost time from work in 2010.
- In addition to injuries, there were 11,200 exposures to infectious diseases and 25,700 exposures to hazardous conditions.
- The Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires (sustained from structure fires, vehicle fires and brush fires) than other regions of the country.
- Almost half (45 percent) of all firefighter injuries occurred during fireground operations. An estimated 13,355 occurred at non-fire emergencies, 4,380 while responding to or returning from an incident, 7,275 during training activities and 14,190 during other on-duty activities.
- The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were strains, sprains and muscular pain, which were responsible for 52.8 percent of the injuries; wounds, cuts, bleeding and bruises, responsible for 14.2 percent; and burns, responsible for 5.9 percent.
- The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion and strain, which were responsible for 25.7 percent of the injuries. Falls, slips and jumps were responsible for 22.5 percent.
- The number of fires to which a fire department responds is directly related to the size of the population it protects. The number of fireground injuries a department incurs is directly related to the number of fires the department attends.
The report said last year's injury tally was the lowest it has been for the 1981 to 2010 period.
"In recent years, the number of firefighter injuries have been considerably lower than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is due in part to additional questions on exposures which allows us to place them in their own categories," the report said.
As for improving firefighter safety, the report said firefighting obviously "presents great risks of personal injury to firefighters.
"Moreover, because of the kind of work performed and the hazards of the incident scene environment, it is unlikely that all firefighter injuries can be eliminated," it added.
"A risk management system and the application of existing technology, however, can offer options to reduce present injury levels and bring about corresponding reductions that are recommended by NFPA that could be taken at the local level."
By FireRescue1 Staff