On-duty firefighter deaths spike in 2013: NFPA

Quincy, MA – In 2013, 97 U.S. firefighters died on the job – an increase from 64 the previous year and the most since 105 were recorded in 2008, according to a new report from the National Fire Protection Association.

The increase in deaths was largely due to two incidents – the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona and an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, TX – that together killed 28 firefighters. The Arizona fire killed 19 in the deadliest incident for firefighters since 9/11, when 340 died at the World Trade Center. The Texas fertilizer plant explosion killed nine firefighters and is the fourth-highest fatal incident for firefighters since 1977, according to the report.

Overexertion, stress and medical issues accounted for the largest share of firefighter deaths in 2013 (32). The 30 deaths related to wildland fires is the highest total since 1994, when 33 occurred. Cardiac death (usually heart attacks) claimed 29 on-duty firefighters, the second lowest total since 1977.

The annual report, released June 11, focused on firefighter deaths directly associated with on-duty activities and did not track effects of long-term exposure to toxic substances.