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Firefighter deaths fell slightly in 2023, but remain high: NFPA


Photo: FiredogPhotos/iStockphoto

Quincy, MA — Eighty-nine firefighters died while on duty or within 24 hours of duty last year, according to a National Fire Protection Association annual report.

The total marks an 8.2% decrease from the 97 firefighter fatalities recorded in 2022, but is the second highest since 2013, when 98 on-duty deaths were recorded. (Prior to 2022, NFPA didn’t record deaths that occurred within 24 hours of duty unless victims expressed a specific physical complaint while on the job.)

The report is based on data gathered from six different firefighting populations, including career and volunteer firefighters serving in local fire departments; civilian firefighters working at military installations; and seasonal, full-time and contract employees of state and federal agencies with firefighting responsibilities.

Of the 89 firefighters, 80 were municipal firefighters and nine were nonmunicipal firefighters.

Other findings:

  • The largest share of the deaths (32) occurred among firefighters working at fires or explosions.
  • For the second straight year, 36 died from sudden cardiac arrest.
  • 19 of the deaths occurred while responding to or returning from alarms.
  • 18 of the deaths resulted from vehicle crashes – the most since 2008.
  • Seven firefighters were fatally injured in struck-by incidents.

“While the overall downward trend in the annual number of firefighter fatalities is an encouraging indication that injury prevention efforts through the years are having an impact, there is a still a clear need for continuing attention to firefighter safety and health,” said Richard Campbell, senior research analyst at NFPA. “Sudden cardiac deaths remain a critical concern, with the inclusion of deaths within 24 hours of duty bringing the issue into sharper focus.”

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