USFA: Number of on-duty firefighter deaths drops

Emmitsburg, MD – Eighty-three firefighters died on the job in 2011, marking the fewest annual number of on-duty fatalities recorded in nearly 20 years, according to a U.S. Fire Administration report (.pdf file) released July 17.

This total includes 18 firefighters who died from heart attack or stroke within 24 hours of engaging in strenuous or physical on-the-job activities. Prior to a 2003 law, these deaths were not included in the official count. When not including such deaths in last year’s count, 2011 marks the lowest number of on-duty firefighter deaths on record.

Stress or overexertion remains the No. 1 cause of death among firefighters, accounting for 60 percent of fatalities in 2011. Although this is a slight decline from the previous year’s percentage of 63, it still represents the second highest proportion in the past 10 years.

The number of fatal motor vehicle crashes reached its lowest in 15 years, with five deaths, and 2011 marks the second year in a row in which no firefighter was killed in incidents involving aircraft. Ten deaths were related to wildland fires, the lowest total since 1996.

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