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NFPA’s annual firefighter fatality report showed 82 on-duty firefighter deaths in 2009

NFPA's annual firefighter fatality report
Cardiac arrest was identified as the main
cause of
firefighters' fatal injuries

The 2009 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) annual firefighter fatality report, Firefighter Fatalities in the United States – 2009 and U.S. Fire Service Fatalities in Structure Fires, 1977-1999, was recently released, showing that 82 firefighters died while on-duty last year. This is the lowest total since 1993 and the third lowest recorded since NFPA began the study in 1977. Forty-one volunteer firefighters died in the line of duty last year, the lowest total since 1994, compared with 31 career firefighters.

“I am pleased that the number of firefighter fatalities in the United States went down in 2009,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg, who also serves on the Board of Directors for NFPA and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “I hope and pray that it will continue to decrease because even one line-of-duty firefighter death is too many.”

According to the report, the leading cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities continues to be sudden cardiac death: “The number of (sudden cardiac deaths) has been trending downwards since the late 1970s, but they have leveled off at under 40 deaths while on-duty each year and continue to account for approximately 40 percent of the deaths annually.” 

The report lists several programs and initiatives designed to reduce the cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities, including the NVFC’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program. The report states: “An important part of this NVFC program includes health screenings that they make available annually at several fire service trade shows around the country. The purpose of the program is to lower the incidence of cardiac-related problems in the fire service by educating firefighters and their families about nutrition, fitness and heart disease prevention.” 

According to the report, nine firefighters died in road crashes in 2009 – the lowest total since 1983. The average number of deaths in road vehicle crashes over the last 10 years is 15 a year, with the most being 25 in 2003 and 2007.

The full report can be downloaded for free from NFPA’s web site.

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