Firefighters battle the Thomas Fire in Carpinteria, Calif., on Dec. 10, 2017. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Report: 62 Firefighters Died in 2019, Lowest Since USFA Began Annual Study

Sixty-two firefighters died in 2019 from injuries sustained while on duty, 22 less than the 2018 total of 84 firefighters, according to a new report from the U.S. Fire Administration.

The 2019 total includes 10 firefighters who died under circumstances that were part of inclusion criteria changes resulting from the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefit Act. When not including these fatalities for the purposes of a trend analysis, there were 52 non-Hometown Hero firefighter fatalities in 2019, for the lowest annual total since the USFA began this study.

Firefighter fatalities included 25 career firefighters, 34 volunteer firefighters, and three part-time or full-time members of wildland or wildland contract fire agencies.

The gender of the firefighters who died while on duty in 2019 consisted of one female and 61 males.

There were no multiple firefighter fatality incidents in 2019; therefore, the 62 deaths in 2019 resulted from a total of 62 fatal incidents.

Seven firefighters were killed during activities involving brush, grass or wildland firefighting. This total includes part-time and seasonal wildland firefighters, full-time wildland firefighters, and municipal or volunteer firefighters.

Activities related to emergency incidents resulted in the deaths of 37 firefighters in 2019. These activities include all firefighters who died responding to an emergency or at an emergency scene, returning from an emergency incident, and during other emergency-related activities. Nonemergency activities accounted for 25 fatalities. Nonemergency duties include training, administrative activities, performing other functions that are not related to an emergency incident, and post-incident fatalities where the illness or injury does not become evident until after the emergency.

Eighteen firefighters experienced fatal injuries during fireground operations in 2019. Of these fatalities, 17 were at the scene of a structure fire, and one was at the scene of a wildland or outside fire. The average age of the firefighters killed during fireground operations was 49 years old, with the youngest being 24 years old and the oldest being 72 years old. Ten of those killed were volunteer, and eight were career firefighters. The nature of fatal injury while engaged in fireground operations for 10 of the firefighter deaths was heart attack (56%). The nature of fatal injury for the other eight deaths include: trauma (three), burns (two), crushed (one), other (one) and asphyxiation (one).

There were 17 fatalities in 2019 where firefighters became ill or injured while on the scene of a structure fire. Of these fatalities, most occurred while on the scene of a residential structure fire.

Eight firefighters died or experienced an onset of symptoms while responding to or returning from eight emergency incidents: six while responding to, and two while returning from, an incident.

Five firefighters died while engaged in training activities: Three firefighters died from heart attacks and two died from heat exhaustion.

In 2019, 12 firefighters were killed during emergency duties not related to fire. These response calls included nine motor vehicle accidents, one emergency medical services (EMS) call, one hazmat incident, and one incident where a firefighter and his department responded to a report of wires down. Five of the 12 firefighters died from heart attacks, four from traumatic injuries, one from a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), one from electrocution, and one from violence (shooting). Two of the traumatic injury deaths were from being struck by a vehicle. The average age was 50 years old. The youngest was 23 years old, and the oldest was 81 years old.

Read the USFA report

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