According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 90 firefighters died in 2009. While that’s far too many as far as I’m concerned (and I’m sure you feel the same way), that number also happens to be the lowest it’s been since the early 90s, when 81 firefighters died in 2003 and 77 died in 1992. In 1994, the number of firefighter LODDs jumped to 106 and since then has steadily hovered near that mark. In both 2007 and 2008, 118 firefighters died in the line of duty. (You can find a chart that depicts these LODDs at the bottom of this post.)

These stats beg the question, Is the recent drop in LODDs an anomaly or is the ubiquitous safety message finally starting to permeate fire-service culture?

I’ve had the honor of working with safety gurus like chiefs Billy Goldfeder over the years, and I had to wonder if he had the same thought.

“What I think we are starting to ‘get’ is that so many deaths are preventable, and thanks to so many resources that are available to firefighters, officers and chiefs, we are starting to understand why,” said Chief Goldfeder—someone who knows a little something about safety. If you didn’t already know, he’s the founder of FirefighterCloseCalls.com; he’s on the board of directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which operates the national program EveryoneGoesHome.com; he’s chair of the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section; and he serves on the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting Task Force.

He continues: “We need to keep in mind that we’re talking about 1.1 million firefighters in the United States, so the numbers seem very low. So when we’re able to reduce any preventable LODDs, it’s a big deal to us, to the USFA, the NFPA—but actually, forget all of them. The biggest and most important deal is to the family, spouses or kids of the firefighters whose loss was preventable!”

The Breakdown
Following is the provisional report related to on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2009. View the full report at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/txt/09_fatality_summary.txt.

Number of On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities: 90
(Count of Hometown Heroes: 13)

Classification:
Volunteer: 46 (51.1%)
Career: 36 (40%)
Wildland Contract: 4 (4.44%)
Wildland Full-Time: 3 (3.33%)
Part-Time(Paid): 1 (1.11%)

Number of Multiple-Firefighter-Fatality Incidents: 6
Number of Firefighter Fatalities Associated with Wildland Incidents: 16

Type of Duty:
On-Scene Fire: 28 (31.1%)
After: 17 (18.8%)
Other On-Duty: 15 (16.6%)
Responding: 12 (13.3%)
On-Scene Non-Fire: 9 (10%)
Training: 6 (6.66%)
Returning: 3 (3.33%)

Percent of Fatalities Related to Emergency Duty: 62.2%
Number of Firefighter Fatalities Associated with Suspicious/Incendiary Incidents: 6

Type of Incident:
Not Incident-Related: 35 (38.8%)
Structure Fire: 22 (24.4%)
Wildland: 15 (16.6%)
MVA: 7 (7.77%)
EMS: 4 (4.44%)
Other: 3 (3.33%)
Vehicle Fire: 2 (2.22%)
Outside Fire: 1 (1.11%)
False Alarm: 1 (1.11%)

Cause of Fatal Injury:
Stress/Overexertion: 52 (57.7%)
Vehicle Collision: 16 (17.7%)
Fall: 7 (7.77%)
Struck by: 4 (4.44%)
Caught/Trapped: 3 (3.33%)
Other: 3 (3.33%)
Collapse: 2 (2.22%)
Lost: 2 (2.22%)
Contact with: 1 (1.11%)

Nature of Fatal Injury:
Heart Attack: 43 (47.7%)
Trauma: 28 (31.1%)
CVA: 8 (8.88%)
Asphyxiation: 5 (5.55%)
Burns: 2 (2.22%)
Electrocution: 1 (1.11%)
Violence: 1 (1.11%)
Heat Exhaustion: 1 (1.11%)
Other: 1 (1.11%)

Age of Firefighter When the Fatal Injury Was Sustained:
Under 21: 2
21 to 25: 3
26 to 30: 5
31 to 40: 18
41 to 50: 24
51 to 60: 23
61 and Over: 15

Percent of Firefighter Fatalities Under Age 40: 28.9%

Type of Activity:
Not On Scene 39 (43.3%)
Advance Hose Lines: 12 (13.3%)
Responding: 12 (13.3%)
Unknown: 7 (7.77%)
Other: 5 (5.55%)
S&R: 4 (4.44%)
Unknown: 3 (3.33%)
Pump Ops: 2 (2.22%)
Water Supply: 2 (2.22%)
Scene Safety: 2 (2.22%)
Support: 1 (1.11%)
IC: 1 (1.11%)

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Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on January 15, 2010 at 5:52pm
Janelle:
I hope that we have turned the corner.
It was an interesting roundtable on LODDs that we had on Firefighter NetCast the other night.
Though I wouldn't toast it quite yet, I would buy a bottle of champagne to have around.
I would like to point out that, in a ten year period-from 2000 to 2009-heart attacks and vehicle accidents have accounted for at least 60% of LODDs each year.
So, I feel that we should continue to work on fireground injuries and deaths, but focus to reduce vehicle accidents and heart attacks.
If we can reduce the number of heart attacks each year by increasing the number of departments offering yearly physicals, better medical surveillance and promote better physical fitness, then I think we will see a sustainable reduction in LODDs.
That, of course, is my opinion.
Art

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