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‘An inherently dangerous profession’: USFA releases annual report on firefighter fatalities

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Emmitsburg, MD — Eighty-two firefighters died while on duty in 2018, six fewer than the previous year, according to an annual report recently released by the U.S. Fire Administration.

The total marks the fourth annual decrease in the past five years. Since peaking at 109 in 2013, the number of firefighter deaths has fallen in all but one year – edging up to 91 in 2016 from 90 the year before.

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).”

Forty-two of the deaths last year occurred during activities related to an emergency incident, and 33 resulted from heart attacks.

Other findings:

  • The youngest firefighter to die in 2018 was 20 years old; the oldest was 82.
  • 44 of those killed were part of the volunteer ranks, 33 were career firefighters and five represented wildland agencies.
  • The states with the most fatalities were California and Pennsylvania, with seven apiece. Texas had six, while Georgia and North Carolina each had five.

“The ultimate objective of this effort is to reduce the number of firefighter deaths through an increased awareness and understanding of their causes and how they can be prevented,” the report states. “Firefighting, rescue and other types of emergency operations are essential activities in an inherently dangerous profession, and unfortunate tragedies do occur.

“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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