New Milestone Achieved in Firefighter Fatalities

Source: Oleksandr Farion/123RF

According to a report by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), 2019 saw a number of fewest-ever marks achieved for firefighter fatalities, including the first year on record with no multiple-fatality incidents.

The report states that 48 firefighters died while on duty in the US as a result of injuries and illnesses that occurred at specific events that year. This represents a sharp drop from recent years, where deaths averaged 65 per year.

Of the 48 firefighters, 25 were volunteer firefighters and 20 were career firefighters; one was an employee of a state land management agency, one was an employee of a federal land management agency, and one was a civilian employee of the military.

There were no multiple-fatality incidents in 2019, the only time that has been the case since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977.

The study focuses on deaths that occur while firefighters are on the job, and includes both fatal traumatic injuries and deaths resulting from medical conditions.

Long-term health effects, both physical and emotional, also result in job-related deaths, both for active firefighters and for people who have left the fire service.

The hazards of firefighting also include long-term exposure to carcinogens and other contaminants, as well as physical and emotional stress and strain. While it is not possible to fully capture the number of deaths that result from these long-term effects, there are sources to provide some insight into the magnitude of the problem.

Fires and explosions claimed the lives of 13 firefighters last year, with 10 occurring at structure fires and three on wildland fires.

This is the lowest number of deaths at fire scenes ever reported in this study, and the third time in the past four years with fewer than 20 deaths.

This continues a clear downward trend since the early 1970s when the number of fire ground deaths averaged more than 80 per year.