Federal agencies Fire/emergency medical services

Nearly 90 firefighters died on duty in 2017: report

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Photo: Matt277/iStockphoto

Emmitsburg, MD — Eighty-seven firefighters were killed on the job in 2017, four fewer than in 2016, according to an annual report recently released by the U.S. Fire Administration.

“Stress/overexertion” was the leading cause of fatalities, contributing to 52 deaths. That category includes heart attacks, which claimed the lives of 50 on-duty firefighters. The second-leading cause was struck-by incidents (14 fatalities).


The report classifies “on-duty” as “being involved in operations at the scene of an emergency, whether it is a fire or non-fire incident; responding to, or returning from, an incident; performing other officially assigned duties, such as training, maintenance, public education, inspection, investigations, court testimony or fundraising; and being on call, under orders or on standby duty (except at an individual’s home or place of business).”

Other findings:

  • The youngest firefighter to die in 2017 was 19 years old, while the oldest was 74.
  • 13 fatalities occurred in December, the most of any month.
  • 48 of those killed were part of the volunteer ranks, 33 were career firefighters and six represented wildland agencies.

“Firefighting, rescue and other types of emergency operations are essential activities in an inherently dangerous profession, and unfortunate tragedies do occur,” the report states. “These are the risks that all firefighters accept every time they respond to an emergency incident. However, the risks can be greatly reduced through efforts to improve training, emergency scene operations, and firefighter health and safety.”

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