Last year, fire ground and structure fires both had the fewest number of firefighter deaths ever recorded. IN 2012,64 ON-DUTY FIREFIGHTER DEATHS occurred in the United States. For the past four years, the annual total has been well below 100, dropping the annual average over the past 10 years to 88 deaths. This is the second consecutive year that the total has been below 65 deaths. Of the 64 firefighters who died while on duty in 2012, 30 were volunteer firefighters, 23 were career firefighters, four were members of the military, three were federal contractors, two were employees of federal land management agencies, and two were prison inmates. This is the lowest number of volunteer firefighter fatalities ever and the second-lowest number of career firefighter deaths.


+ 2012 was the fourth consecutive year in which the total number of firefighter fatalities was below 100.

+ 2011 and 2012 had by far the lowest number of firefighter deaths on record, and the annual average number of firefighter deaths has dropped to 88 during the period 2003 to 2012.

+ 2012 was the first year in which the on-duty fatalities due to sudden cardiac death dropped below 30.

+ The 12 deaths that occurred at structure fires in 2012 was the fewest ever recorded.

Type of duty

Twenty-one deaths, which is the largest share of deaths last year, occurred while firefighters were operating on the fire ground. This is the lowest number of fire ground deaths reported since this study began in 1977, and it accounts for just under one-third of the on-duty deaths in 2012. Over the 10-year span from 2003 to 2012, there were an average of 29 fire ground deaths annually, less than half the average of 69 deaths per year from 1977 through 1986, the first 10 years of this study.

Nineteen firefighters died while responding to, or returning from, emergency calls, although not necessarily as the result of crashes. While eight firefighters died in collisions or rollovers, seven died as a result of sudden cardiac events or a stroke, two were shot on arrival at a structure fire, and, in separate incidents, two were hit by falling trees while responding to, or returning from, a fire. Sixteen of the victims were volunteer firefighters, two were career firefighters, and one was the employee of a federal land management agency.

The number of firefighters who died while responding to, or returning from, a call has averaged about 25 per year over the past 10 years. Although the total for 2012 is not as low as the total was the year before, it still is lower than average.

Eight deaths occurred during training activities. Sudden cardiac death claimed five of the eight: Two died during training hikes, two during ladder training, and one while working out at the station. One firefighter became overheated during smoke diver training and died, while another fell from an aerial ladder during training. The eighth firefighter drowned during a dive training exercise.

Four firefighters also died at non-fire emergencies, all of them motor vehicle crashes. Two were struck by vehicles, and two suffered sudden cardiac deaths.

The remaining 12 firefighters died while involved in a variety of non-Emergency emergency-related on-duty activities. Eight were engaged in normal administrative or station duties. Six of the eight died of sudden cardiac death, one died as the result of a stroke, and one succumbed to a long-term illness. One collapsed while on a break during an out-of-town fire investigation, and another died while delivering water to an area where potable water was not available. Two firefighters were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes while on official fire department assignments.

Fire ground deaths

Of the 21 fire ground fatalities, 12 occurred at 11 structure fires, eight occurred on four wildland fires, and one firefighter died while directing traffic at a vehicle fire. This is the lowest number of deaths at structure fires ever reported in this study.

Six of the 12 firefighters died at structure fires that occurred in residential properties. Fires in one- and two-family dwellings killed five of the six, and one died at a fire in an apartment building. Of the six firefighters who died in nonresidential structures, two were killed when the wall of a burning vacant warehouse collapsed onto the exposed structure where they were operating, and two were killed in separate roof collapses. Of the two who died in roof collapses, one was killed when the bowstring truss roof of a movie theater collapsed during a fire, and the other when the roof of a restaurant collapsed. Sudden cardiac death claimed the lives of two of the 12 firefighters who died in structure fires, one at a chemical plant and the other at a warehouse.

That warehouse was the only structure that had an automatic suppression system. The wet-pipe sprinkler system operated, with seven heads opening. The system was effective in controlling the fire but did not extinguish it.

Six of the eight victims at wildland fires were killed in two aircraft crashes. One firefighter was struck by a falling snag-part of a dead tree-and a contracted tree feller suffered a fatal cardiac event.

The firefighter who died while directing traffic at a motor vehicle fire suffered a stroke.

Cause and nature of fatal injury or illness

Half of the firefighter deaths in 2012 resulted from overexertion, stress, and medical issues. Of the 32 deaths in this category, 27 were sudden cardiac deaths, usually heart attacks; three were due to strokes; and one was the result of heat stroke. One man died on duty as a result of a long-term illness.

The second leading cause of fatal injury was being struck by, or coming into contact with, an object. Among the 24 firefighters in this category, 16 died in motor vehicle crashes, three were struck by motor vehicles, three were hit by falling trees, and two were shot to death.

The next leading cause of fatal injury was being caught or trapped, which resulted in six deaths. Four firefighters were killed in three separate structure fires when roofs or walls collapsed. Rapid fire progress in a structure fire resulted in the death of one of the firefighters, and the other drowned during dive training.

Two firefighters were killed in falls. One fell from an aerial ladder during training, and the other fell from the back step of a tanker when it skidded on an icy road. In that second incident, the driver of the apparatus drove away while the victim was still on the back step after filling a dump tank at a structure fire.

Sudden cardiac deaths

In 2012, the 27 sudden cardiac deaths that occurred while the victims were on duty is the lowest number of cardiac deaths since this study began in 1977. Last year was also the fifth consecutive year in which they declined.

The number of deaths in this category has fallen significantly since the early years of this study. From 1977 through 1986, an average of 60 firefighters a year suffered sudden cardiac deaths while on duty, accounting for 44.7 percent of the on-duty deaths during that period. These are cases where the onset of symptoms occurred while the victim was on duty, and death occurred immediately or shortly thereafter. The average number of annual deaths fell to 44 in the 1990s and to 37 in the past decade. In spite of this reduction, sudden cardiac death still accounted for 42 percent of the on-duty deaths in the last five years. Overall, sudden cardiac death is the number one cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States and usually accounts for the largest share of deaths in any given year.

For 20 of the 27 victims of sudden cardiac events in 2012, autopsy results showed that 14 were hypertensive, 11 had arteriosclerotic heart disease, eight were obese, five had coronary artery disease, five were diabetic, and eight were reported to have had a history of cardiac problems, such as previous heart attacks, bypass surgery, or angioplasty or stent placement. Some of the victims had more than one condition. Other risk factors of the victims of sudden cardiac death included high cholesterol, smoking, and family history. Medical documentation was not available for the other seven firefighters.

Sudden cardiac death accounts for a higher proportion of the deaths among older firefighters, as might be 1expected. Almost 60 percent of the firefighters over age 40 who died in 2012, and all of the victims over age 60, died of heart attacks or other cardiac events. The youngest victim of sudden pcardiac death was 24.

Vehicle crashes

In 2012,16 firefighters died in 12 vehicle crashes. Seven of them were killed in separate crashes while responding to incidents, and one was killed while returning from an incident. Five of the eight were passengers in the vehicle. Three were responding to the scene of motor vehicle crashes, three were responding to wildland fires, one was responding to a structure fire, and one was returning from a call concerning a carbon monoxide detector activation.

Six firefighters were also killed in two aircraft crashes at wildland fires. Four died when their aircraft flew into a microburst and then crashed while they were dropping retardant on the fire. The other two firefighters were also in an aircraft dropping fire retardant when their aircraft struck mountainous terrain.

Two firefighters died in crashes while involved in fire department business. One was driving his fire department vehicle to a meeting when he was struck by another vehicle that lost control on a highway. He was wearing a seatbelt. The other victim was returning from a meeting on his motorcycle when he struck a car that pulled out into the road in front of him.

Of the 10 firefighters who died in road vehicles, five were not wearing seatbelts and four were. Of the five who were not wearing seatbelts, four were ejected and one was not. None of the four victims wearing seatbelts was ejected. The tenth victim was riding a motorcycle. Factors reported in the crashes included excessive speed, driver inattention, weather conditions, driver inexperience, and failure to maintain control of the vehicle.

Other findings

Four firefighters were killed in connection with intentionally set fires last year, two at the scene of the fires and two while responding to a fire. All were structure fires. From 2003 through 2012,44 firefighters, or 5 percent of all firefighters who died on duty, died in connection with intentionally set fires. The number of these deaths has been dropping since 1985.

In 2012, one firefighter died as a result of a false alarm. Over the past 10 years, 23 firefighter deaths resulted from false calls, including malicious false alarms and alarm malfunctions.

The firefighters who died last year ranged in age from 17 to 79, with a median age of 49. Over the past five years, career and volunteer firefighters in their 20s and 30s have the lowest death rates, with a rate about half the all-age average, while firefighters aged 60 and over have a death rate almost four times the average. Firefighters aged 50 and over accounted for almost half of all firefighter deaths over the five-year period but represent only one-fifth of all career and volunteer firefighters in the United States.

The 30 volunteer firefighter deaths in 2012 represent the lowest number reported in this study for the second consecutive year and maintains the general downward trend seen since 1999. The number of on-duty deaths of volunteer firefighters in 2012 is approximately half the annual average number reported 10 years ago.

The 22 career firefighter deaths that occurred last year is the second-lowest total for career firefighter deaths and just one death more than occurred in 2011. The trend for career firefighter deaths in the United States has been relatively flat over the past 10 years, although the trend has been heading downward since 2009. The high number of career firefighter deaths in 2007 was due to a single, nine-fatality incident.

NFPA standards and other efforts focused on firefighter health and safety

NFPA has several standards that focus on the health risks to firefighters. For example, NFPA 1582, Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, outlines the medical requirements that candidate firefighters and incumbent fire department members must meet. NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, calls for fire departments to establish a firefighter health and fitness program that meets the requirements of NFPA 1583, Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Fighters, and requires that firefighters meet the medical requirements of NFPA 1582.

Information on developing a wellness-fitness program is available from other organizations, such as the IAFC/ IAFF Fire Service Joint Labor-Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative and the National Volunteer Fire Council's Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program. The Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program was launched in 2003 to address heart attack prevention for all firefighters and EMS personnel, through fitness, nutrition, and health awareness.

NFPA's firefighter fatality study focuses on the fire deaths that are directly associated with specific on-duty activities and does not track the effects of long-term exposure to toxic products that might occur during an individual's time in the fire service. However, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has undertaken a multi-year study to examine the cancer risks to firefighters, using health records of approximately 30,000 current and retired career firefighters from suburban and large city fire departments. Results should be released in 2014. More information about the project is available on the NIOSH website at www.cdc. gov/niosh/firefighters/cii07.html.

NFPA also publishes several standards related to road and vehicle safety issues. NFPA 1002, Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator Professional Qualifications, identifies the minimum job performance requirements for firefighters who drive and operate fire apparatus, in both emergency and nonemergency situations. NFPA 1451, Fire Service Vehicle Operations Training Program, provides for the development of a written vehicle operations training program, including the organizational procedures for training, vehicle maintenance, and identifying equipment deficiencies. NFPA 1911, Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, details a program designed to ensure that fire apparatus are serviced and maintained to keep them in safe operating condition. NFPA 1901, Automotive Fire Apparatus, addresses vehicle stability to prevent rollovers and gives manufacturers options on how to provide it. New vehicles will have their maximum speed limited, based on their weight, and will have vehicle data recorders to monitor, among other things, acceleration and deceleration, as well as seatbelt use. NFPA 1906, Wildland Fire Apparatus, establishes minimum design, performance, and testing requirements for new vehicles over 10,000 pounds {4,536 kilograms) gross vehicle weight rating that are specifically designed for wildland fire suppression.

NFPA is also developing a new standard, NFPA 1091, Traffic Control Incident Management, which will identify the minimum job performance requirements necessary to perform temporary traffic control duties at emergencies on or near an active roadway. Its first edition will be published in 2015.

NFPA 1500 requires that operators successfully complete an approved driver training program, possess a valid driver's license for the class of vehicle they operate, and operate the vehicle in compliance with applicable traffic laws. All vehicle occupants must be seated in approved riding positions and secured with seatbelts before drivers move the apparatus, and drivers must obey all traffic signals and signs and all laws and rules of the road, coming to a complete stop when encountering red lights, stop signs, stopped school buses with flashing warning lights, blind intersections and other intersection hazards, and unguarded railroad grade crossings. Passengers must be seated and belted securely and must not release or loosen seatbelts for any reason while the vehicle is in motion.

In related efforts, the United Sates Fire Academy has formed partnerships with the IAFF, the 1AFC, and the National Volunteer Fire Council to focus attention on safety while responding in emergency apparatus. For details, firefighter_health_safety/safety/vehicle_safety/index.shtm.

Vehicle safety programs should not focus exclusively on fire department apparatus, since private vehicles have been the vehicles most frequently involved in road crashes over the years. NFPA 1500 requires that fire departments that allow members to respond to incidents or to the fire station in private vehicles establish specific rules, regulations, and procedures relating to the operation of private vehicles in an emergency mode. NFPA 1451 also requires training for those using privately owned vehicles.

Requirements are also in effect for emergency personnel operating on roadways. The 2009 version of the Federal Highway Administration's Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requires anyone working on a roadway to wear an ANSI 107-compliant high-visibility vest. An exemption allows firefighters and others engaged on roadways to wear NFPAcompliant turnout gear when directly exposed to flames, heat, and hazardous material. NFPA 1500 requires firefighters working on traffic assignments where they are endangered by motor vehicle traffic to wear clothing with fluorescent and retroreflective material and to park their fire apparatus in a blocking position for protection.

The 2009 edition of NFPA 1901 requires that ANSI 207-compliant breakaway high-visibility vests be carried on all new fire apparatus, and MUTCD 2009 allows emergency responders to use them in lieu of ANSI 107-compliant apparel. You can find advice on compliance with the updated federal rules at www.respondersafety. com/Articles/2009_Edition_of_the_ Manual_on_Uniformed_Traffic_Control_Devices_MUTCD_Released_December_l 6_2009.aspx.

NFPA 1901 also requires that reflective striping be used for improved visibility on all new apparatus and that a reflective chevron be applied on the rear of fire apparatus.

Advice on how to improve the visibility of existing apparatus can be found at MarkedAndSeen.aspx.

To sum it all up

There were 64 on-duty firefighter deaths in 2012, the fourth consecutive year in which the total was under 100 deaths. The total number of deaths has been below 100 for six of the 10 years from 2003 to 2012, and the annual average has dropped to 88 deaths per year within the past 10 years. The years 2011 and 2012 had by far the lowest number of deaths on record, and the years 2009 through 2012 include four of the six lowest number of on-duty firefighter deaths on record.

Although sudden cardiac death accounts for the largest share of on-duty deaths in most years, 2012 marked the first time the total dropped below 30. Overall, the number of on-duty cardiac-related deaths has gradually decreased since 1977, although not as rapidly as the total number of on-duty deaths.

The 21 deaths that occurred on the fire ground last year is the lowest total since 1977, and the number of deaths at structure fires was also the lowest ever, at 12 deaths. Although this is encouraging, given the slight increase in the number of structure fires over the past couple of years, it bears watching, as recent analyses have shown that traumatic deaths that occurred while firefighters were operating inside structures have occurred at rates higher in recent years than reported in the 1970s and 1980s. The rates for fire ground deaths in 2012 will be calculated when the number of structure fires in 2012 is reported in September.

Finally, there were many more road vehicle crash deaths in 2012 than in 2011-10 as opposed to four-but the number of crash deaths continues to be lower than the 10-year average. From 2003 to 2012, the number of deaths in road vehicle crashes averaged less than 14 per year, ranging from a low of four in 2011 to a high of 25 in 2003 and 2007. For the fourth consecutive year, and the fifth year over the 10 years from 2003 to 2012, the total number of road vehicle crash deaths was 10 or lower. Historically, vehicle crashes have been the number two cause of on-duty firefighter deaths, with most of the crashes involving road vehicles, so this is a very important and positive trend.

Firefighters view the aftermath of a warehouse fire in Pennsylvania in April 2012. Two firefighters in an adjoining building died when a wall of the warehouse collapsed.


For the full report, visit

2012 Firefighter Fatality Narratives

Aerial Ladder Training

On January 6, at 4 p.m., a 49-year-old firefighter with 29 of service died during a training session. The drill was conducted at the rear of the fire station during his regular work shift. It involved a 105-foot (45-meter) aerial ladder that was fully extended at a 65-degree angle. The firefighters were dressed in either station or exercise attire during the session. The victim was wearing his station duty trousers, uniform polo shirt, sunglasses, ball cap, and steel-toed work boots. The work boots had moderate tread wear on the heel and toe surfaces. He also wore a ladder safety belt. None of the participants wore helmets.

The training required the four crew members to climb, one at a time, to the top of the ladder. They were to connect to the rung of the ladder with the hook of their safety belt, release their hands and lean back, and then reverse the sequence and climb down. The victim had just released the hook on his safety belt on his second time performing this drill and was starting down when he fell.

The officer and two other firefighters, who all witnessed the fall, began resuscitation efforts immediately and called other firefighters in the station for assistance. The victim was transported to the hospital and shortly after that was pronounced dead from multiple blunt force trauma injuries.

An investigation did not find anything wrong with the aerial ladder or the reason for the fall.

NIOSH investigated this incident and offers recommendations on its website at face201201.html.

Unsupervised Physical Training

On January 18, a 50-year-old firefighter with 20 years of service was working a 24-hour shift. He was the fire apparatus operator (FAO) and had responded to a call earlier in the day. Later in the afternoon he went to the weight room to begin his unsupervised exercise program that included use of the treadmill, a stationary bike, lifting weights, and jumping rope. Two firefighters entered the exercise room two hours later, spoke to him, and left. At that time he did not complain of not feeling well or exhibit signs of medical problems.

Two and one half hours later, a firefighter entered the exercise room and found the FAO lying on the floor unresponsive, not breathing and without a pulse. He notified the officer and dispatch, who notified a medic unit. Oxygen equipment and an automated external defibrillator (AED) were brought from the station as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was begun. The AED was connected and a no shock was advised. As the firefighters continued with CPR it became obvious that livor mortis was present and CPR was discontinued. The medic unit arrived and confirmed the FAO's death. He was not transported to the hospital.

Ischemic heart disease due to hypertensive and kidney disease and an old myocardial infarction was listed as the cause of death on the death certificate and autopsy report.

The FAO's risk factors for coronary artery disease included hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus, and obesity, all of which had been diagnosed. He had been prescribed medication to reduce and manage these conditions. He had annual medical evaluations, including one two months prior to his death that cleared him for firefighting activities.

NIOSH investigated this incident and offers recommendations on its website at face201203.html

Thrown from Apparatus

Early on February 13, with the outside temperature at 27 F (-3?, a 21-year-old firefighter was thrown from a department tanker as it traveled to refill its 1,500-gallon (5,678-liter) tank during a water shuttling process. The victim, who had less than a year's service, acted as a spotter and successfully guided the driver of the tanker back to the dump tank at the fire scene. He then climbed up on the tailboard and opened the dump valve and filled the dump tank. The driver stayed in his seat, observed the tank-empty light flash and left the fire scene to go to the water source and refill the tank, unaware that the victim had remained on the tailboard.

Emergency crews work the scene of a single-vehicle crash in February 2012. A fire department pumper truck slid off a highway, killing one firefighter and injuring another.

Another tanker returning to the fire scene from the water source had accidentally dropped approximately 1,500 gallons (5,678 liters) of water on the roadway. The driver reported the water drop to their dispatcher. The driver of the first tanker was using the same road, but didn't hear the warning and hit black ice that formed from the accidental drop. He lost control of the vehicle, which spun 360 degrees a number of times before going off the road and striking an embankment and traffic sign. The driver, who was also the victim's father, sustained non-life threatening injuries, and was able to radio for help and crawl out the passenger side door of the vehicle. The victim was found unresponsive on the roadway. He was transported to the hospital where he died later that morning from blunt trauma to the chest, abdomen and extremities.

NIOSH investigated this incident and offers recommendations on its website at face201206.html

Single Vehicle Crash

On February 22, at 8 p.m., a pumper staffed by a 24-year-old fire lieutenant and an 18-year-old firefighter responded to a single-family dwelling to investigate a report of carbon monoxide in the building. After determining that the building was safe, they started their return trip back to the station. The twolane, asphalt road was wet from falling rain. The lieutenant was driving, and the firefighter was sitting in the passenger seat. Both men were using their lap and upper torso restraint-type seatbelts

Along a straight section of unlit road, the pumper ran off the right side of the road onto the soft shoulder. It continued down a ditch and rolled over half way onto its passenger side, coming to a stop after hitting a utility pole. Substantial damage to the cab trapped the firefighter. The lieutenant sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to the hospital where he was treated and later released. The firefighter was pronounced dead at the crash site. The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. An investigation did not identify any factors that led to the crash.

Roof Collapse

On March 4, a fire lieutenant was killed and two firefighters were injured when the roof of the building they were working in collapsed, trapping them inside.

At 12:15 p.m., a police officer on patrol reported a fire in a downtown movie theatre. The officer was also the chief of the victim's fire department. He evacuated the exposures and returned to the front of the building and verified with the owners, who were on scene, that no one was inside the theatre.

The theatre, a one-story structure with an attic, was of ordinary construction, measured 50 feet by 100 feet (15 meters by 30 meters), and was built in 1948. A bowstring truss system supported the roof. Renovation of the theatre in 1996 added a new ceiling 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) below the existing ceiling.

The first fire company arrived at 12:21 p.m, reported fire showing from the front of the building, and set up to work from that location. A responding mutual-aid company was instructed to go to the rear of the building and work from there. The fire departments attacked the fire from opposite sides of the building, both establishing their own incident commander, accountability system, and fire ground operations. The fire companies in the front of the building initially fought the fire defensively.

The 34-year-old fire lieutenant and two firefighters of the mutual-aid company, dressed in full protective clothing including self-contained breathing apparatus, entered the rear of the building at 12:45 p.m. They did not encounter fire and advanced a charged hose line through the theatre to the back of the lobby where they located fire. The roof collapsed sometime prior to 12:57 p.m., but no mention of collapse or trapped firefighters was relayed to dispatch.

At the time of the fire, the temperature was in the 20 F to 29 F (-6.6 C to -1.6 C) range. There were varying amounts of accumulated snow in the area. Photographs taken during the incident reveal that there could have been up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of snow and ice on the roof. In additiont, water was sprayed onto the roof from an elevated master stream during suppression operations.

Additional fire companies and EMS units were called to the scene after the roof collapsed. The two firefighters were removed from under debris in the building and transported to the hospital A 17-year veteran fire lieutenant was killed while battling, a blaze a Brooklyn, New York, in April 2012, becoming the first city firefighter to die in the line of duty in three years.

where they were treated for fractures, contusions, lung inflammation from fighting the fire, and smoke inhalation. The fire lieutenant was also removed from under debris and was pronounced dead at the scene from smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

The fire was determined to have resulted from an extension cord that had been mechanically damaged when an upholstered chair was placed on it, causing the extension cord to overheat and ignite the chair.

NIOSH investigated this incident and offers recommendations on its website at reports/face201208.html

Struck by Vehicle

On March 19, at 10:30 p.m., fire and police units responded to a single-vehicle crash. The crash occurred when a driver swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle that was stopped partly in her lane. Her vehicle crossed the two-lane county highway and slid off the road into a ditch. Before stopping, it struck a natural gas meter and its associated piping, creating a gas leak.

The fire apparatus was staffed by a fire captain and one firefighter. On arrival, the firefighter driving the engine and the police officer driving his patrol car parked their vehicles, with their emergency lights flashing, a short distance before the crash site, blocking their travel lane to protect themselves. The firefighters, dressed in station uniforms with reflective vests, went to the uninjured victim and were able to walk her away from her vehicle and the leaking gas meter. She went across the street and stayed with a witness who stopped to help. The firefighters then went to see if they could shut off the gas. After they realized that they could not stop the flow of gas, the two firefighters and police officer moved upwind along the shoulder of the roadway. They requested that the gas company speed up their response.

A short time later, a van passed the fire engine and police vehicle by driving in the on-coming traffic lane, increased its speed, and drove onto the shoulder, striking the two firefighters and officer. The victim of the original crash was the mother of the van driver. She had teleThe 56-year-old fire captain was killed instantly. The impact threw him captain was killed instantly. The impact threw him onto the driveway of a single-family dwelling. The other firefighter was thrown approximately 130 feet (39 meters) and into the front yard of the single-family dwelling on the other side of the driveway, severely injured. The police officer was struck and thrown onto the traffic lane closest to the shoulder where they had been standing.

The police officer was able to radio his dispatcher, describe their situation, and request assistance. Two ambulances were dispatched. The first arrived, and the paramedic performed a rapid patient assessment on the firefighters and police officer. The firefighter, who was severely injured, was stabilized and flown to a Level 1 trauma center. The second ambulance arrived, and the paramedics stabilized the police officer before transporting him to the hospital by ground.

The captain died of multiple traumatic injuries. It was listed as a homicide. The other firefighter and police officer sustained nonfatal traumatic injuries.

NIOSH investigated this incident and offers recommendations on its website at face201209.html

Water Delivery

On March 20, a 79-year-old firefighter with more than 50 years service died while finishing up a water delivery. As part of the fire department's duties, it supplies potable water to areas where water is not available. He had just finished a delivery to a storage tank at a sporting club and was preparing to leave when he had a fatal heart attack. Responding EMS and fire personnel administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The nature of death was cardiopulmonary arrest due to, or as a consequence of, hypertensive heart disease.

Roof Collapse

At 4:24 a.m. on April 7, fire companies were dispatched to a fire in a cafe. Five minutes later, a pumper with a 39-year-old fire chief and two firefighters arrived at the scene. They immediately advanced a hose line through the main entrance and into the structure, aggressively attacking the fire.

As they fought the blaze, conditions deteriorated, and approximately 40 min-Four firefighters died when their plane crashed during firefighting operations at a wildland fire in South Dakota in July 2012.

Minutes after the initial alarm, the chief pushed the two firefighters toward the door, saving them as the roof collapsed. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to save the chief. His body was recovered during the investigation, and he was pronounced dead on the scene. The cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and thermal burns.

Aircraft Crash

On June 1, lightning ignited a wildland fire in steep, rugged terrain dominated by juniper and pinion-pine trees, sagebrush, and grasses. The fire would ultimately consume approximately 6,300 acres (2549 hectares).

Two days later, two contract pilots flying an air tanker were conducting their second retardant drop over the fire in a valley 0.4 miles (0.6 kilometers) wide. The tanker was following the lead plane, which made a right-hand turn and dropped to an elevation of 150 feet (45 meters) on its final approach, when it crashed into rising terrain that was 700 feet (213 meters) to the left of the lead plane's flight course.

Both pilots were killed, and the plane was severely damaged from impact and a post-crash fire.

Struck by Tree

On June 29 at 9:45 p.m., a storm with winds of 80 miles (128 kilometers) per hour was blowing through the area. The fire department was dispatched for a fire involving a wooden utility pole with fire spreading to the surrounding woodland.

A 54-year-old fire lieutenant responding from home to the fire station came upon a small fallen tree blocking the main highway and got out of his automobile to help civilians move the tree from the travel lane. As they attempted to move the downed tree, other trees fell, one of which struck the lieutenant on the head. The lieutenant was transported to the hospital, where he died three days later from blunt force trauma injuries to the head.

Aircraft Crash

At 5:30 p.m. on July 1, a military transport aircraft equipped with a self-contained unit used for aerial firefighting crashed while conducting firefighting operations on a wildland fire on public land. The aircraft had a six-member crew, consisting of two pilots, a navigator, a flight engineer, and two loadmasters.

On their third retardant drop, the transport was diverted to another fire, as was the lead airplane.

The lead plane conducted a show-me run that allowed the military aircraft pilot to see the drop path, any hazards, and an escape route. A third airplane arrived, descending to 7,000 feet (2,133 meters), due to more than moderate turbulence. The third plane crew's responsibilities were to manage air and ground firefighting assets in and around the fire ground. The three planes were warned to give wide berth to a thunderstorm southwest of the fire ground.

The first drop went exactly as planned. As the lead plane and the military aircraft positioned themselves for the second and final drop, however, the managing aircraft encountered severe turbulence, as did the lead plane, which unbeknownst to the crew of the military aircraft lost altitude and airspeed. As the pilot of the lead plane struggled to maintain control, his plane came within 10 feet (3 meters) of the ground and he radioed that he had to "go around," a term used during misalignments rather than urgent situations. The pilot of the lead plane radioed to the military aircraft to dump its load. There was then some chatter on the intercom and the military aircraft hit the ground. Four members of the crew died in the crash. The two loadmasters survived but sustained significant injuries.

The accident investigation board found that the cause of the crash was the military aircraft crew's inadequate assessment of operational conditions, which resulted in it flying through a microburst and hitting the ground. The board also found that the crews of the lead plane and managing plane failed to communicate critical operational information and that conflicting operational guidance concerning thunderstorm avoidance contributed to the crash.

For the complete report, visit MAFFS_%20Report.pdf


On August 10, a 46-year-old fire captain participating in an advanced diving instruction class drowned. At 2:15 p.m., more than 15 minutes into his second dive, the captain surfaced from approximately 40 feet (12 meters) of water and indicated that he was having a problem. The captain, a certified diver, lost consciousness and submerged under the water. The diving instructor recovered him from a depth of about 60 feet (18 meters) and brought him to the surface, but a medical helicopter crew pronounced him dead at the scene. The cause of death was drowning.

Struck by Tree

On August 12, a 20-year-old firefighter with two years' experience was struck and killed by a falling tree at a wildland fire. The tree that hit her was 123 feet (37 meters) tall and had a 40-inch (101-centimeter) diameter at breast height. It had struck another tree before hitting the victim, who died instantly as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.

The fire, which started on August 10 in an area of recently harvested trees and deep slash, was called in by a logger at 11:30 a.m. The fire warden who received the alarm, knowing the fire location was in steep terrain, immediately ordered aircraft and other resources, including four helicopters, two single-engine air tankers, bulldozers, three water tenders, three engines, a Department of Corrections crew, private company firefighters, and logging company employees. The fire soon became a multi-agency incident, with two public and two private agencies responding. One of the private agencies was in charge of the fire.

Firefighting continued until early evening when the incident commander withdrew the fire crews for safety reasons.

As the fire burned overnight, it increased from 7 to 40 acres (2 to 16 hectares) in size on August 11. After 2 p.m., the public agencies' crews voiced their safety concerns to the incident commander and left the fireground. Some of those concerns included the need for better radio communications, the need for professional tree fellers, gaps in the fire line, and the lack of medivac sites and a medical plan. That evening and the following morning, the incident commander began implementing hazard mitigation.

By the morning of August 12, the fire had grown to 70 acres (28 hectares), and firefighters from one of the public agencies returned to the fireground, their concerns having been mitigated. The other crew was assigned to another fire.

During their lunch break, the victim and another firefighter were standing 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters) behind a feller, watching him cut down trees. When the other firefighter saw the top of a tree on the other side of the creek falling towards them, he yelled out a warning, and the two started to run. Seeing the falling tree hit another tree, he yelled to change direction, but the tree hit the victim, just missing the other firefighter.

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At 5:30 a.m. on December 24, two firefighters, one a 43-year-old and the other a 19-year-old, were killed and two other firefighters sustained non-life-threatening injuries when they were shot by a 62-year-old mentally-challenged felon. The well-armed shooter intentionally set his vehicle and home on fire, causing the fire companies to respond. When the fire companies arrived at the scene, he started firing from behind a berm.

The first-arriving firefighter drove his own vehicle to the scene and was evacuating occupants from adjacent dwellings when he was shot in the back, causing a severe pelvic injury where the bullet lodged in his back, where it remains. A pumper with two firefighters arrived next. The firefighter sitting in the passenger seat left the vehicle and was shot twice, once in the left shoulder and once in the right knee. The driver gave a brief size-up, and then, thinking the shots were coming from the opposite side, got out of the vehicle from the passenger side. He, too, was fatally shot. The fourth firefighter, who arrived in another department emergency vehicle, was killed as he was putting on his protective clothing before connecting the pumper to the hydrant.

As a result of the shootings, fire personnel were unable to extinguish the fires, which eventually spread to seven other homes. During the fires, the shooter committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Two firefighters were shot and killed, and two more were injured, in an ambush in New York state on December 24, 2012.

U.S. Department of Justice Death, Disability, and Educational Benefits for Public Safety Officers and Survivors

This program provides a federal death benefit to the survivors of the nation's law enforcement officers, firefighters, and rescue and ambulance squad members whose deaths are the direct and proximate result of injury sustained in the line of duty. Expansions to the program now include a benefit for permanent and total disabilities that occur on duty, as well as an educational assistance allowance to the spouse and children of public safety officers whose deaths or disabilities qualify under the program. For full details on the program, or to submit a claim, visit


This study is made possible by the cooperation and assistance of the United States fire service, the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program of the Department of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the United States Fire Administration, the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The authors would also like to thank Carl E. Peterson, retired from NFPA's Public Fire Protection Division, and Thomas Hales, MD, MPH, of CDC-NIOSH, for their assistance on the study.
Written by NFPA Journal


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