January 2018 On-Duty Deaths

January 2018 On-Duty Deaths
Firefighters line up as the body of Philadelphia firefighter Lt. Matthew LeTourneau is carried on top of a firetruck during a funeral procession on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 in Philadelphia. Officials say the funeral mass for Lt. Matthew LeTourneau will be held Friday at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The 11-year veteran was pulled from the home on Saturday by fellow firefighters and taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Kristen DeGroot)

The following information is a breakdown of the details of those members in the fire service who died while operating “on-duty” as defined by the United States Fire Administration (USFA). For more information on this definition and that of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s definition of “line of duty death” read “On Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?” [1]. The information presented is not meant to distract from the emotional toll felt by the families and coworkers. It is instead meant to remind us to look greater at the record of fatalities and in comparison to previous years as well as be a measure of substance when used in discussions.

There were five on-duty deaths in the first month of 2018. 2017 ended with a total of 93 firefighter fatalities, as recorded by the USFA and only one involved a firefighter dying inside a burning structure [2]. One of the fatalities in January involved a firefighter killed inside a burning structure. The other four deaths involve a variety of activities and causes.

Three volunteer firefighters and two career firefighters died in January. The average age of the victims is 49. The youngest was 31 and the oldest was 76. The deaths run the range of rank: one deputy chief; one lieutenant; two firefighters; and one firefighter/driver-operator.

Inside Structures

The one firefighter killed inside a structure was killed in a collapse on 6 January [3]. Philadelphia lieutenant Matthew LeTourneau was caught in a floor collapse while fighting a residential structure fire [4]. LeTourneau’s engine company was first-due to the fire in an occupied rowhouse. His nature of death has not been determined. A civilian was also killed in the fire.

Outside Structures and Other Areas

Another fireground fatality, but outside of the structure, occurred on 24 January in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Firefighter/Driver-Operator Dwayne Thomas suffered a heart attack while on the scene of a residential structure fire [5]. Thomas drove a tanker to the scene, assisted with forcible entry, and began setting up water supply when he was found unresponsive by other firefighters.

The other on-duty deaths for the month include a fall; struck by a vehicle; and a medical emergency. On 2 January Kansas firefighter John Randle died after falling from fire apparatus at the firehouse [6]. Randle, 67, was working to place the apparatus back in service after a structure fire.

Louisiana deputy chief Russel Achord was struck and killed while investigating a collision on a highway due to icy road conditions [7]. Another vehicle crashed into the accident scene, pinning Achord under a vehicle.

Tennessee firefighter Derrick Webb died while preparing for training at his firehouse [8]. Webb was found unresponsive in his PPE with SCBA on and PASS device sounding. The cause and nature of his death are currently unknown.

It is always important to reiterate that the discussion of the details in the reporting of these deaths is not meant to diminish the loss. Each number is a person mourned by a family, friends and coworkers. What is intended in this and related writing is that it is important for the fire service to be aware of the details in our on-duty death numbers. Blindly saying that 100 or so firefighters die each year, as well as saying “we’ve lost too many” each time a fatality occurs is turning a blind eye to the data. By understanding the details in the recording, we can be more aware of trends, both good and bad, in our efforts to reduce these fatalities.

January 2018 On-Duty Death Data

Total On-Duty Deaths: 5 (5 YTD)

Career: 2

Volunteer: 3


Average Age: 49

Oldest: 67

Youngest: 31


Firefighter Fatalities Age 65 and Older: 1



Deputy Chief: 1

Lieutenant: 1

Firefighter: 2

Firefighter/Driver-Operator: 1



Fireground Fatalities: 2

    Killed Inside Residential Structure: 1

        Occupied at Time of Fire: 1

        Structure Type

            Private Dwelling (including duplex, triplex): 0

            Rowhouse: 1

            Townhouse: 0

            Apartment: 0

            High-Rise Apartment: 0

    Killed Inside Commercial Structure: 0

        Occupied at Time of Fire: 0

        Structure Type

            Commercial: 0

            Educational: 0

            Manufacturing: 0

            Office: 0

            High-Rise Office: 0


Fatalities Inside Abandoned Structures: 0

Fatalities Due to Disorientation: 0

Fatalities Due to Fire Behavior: 0


Fatalities Due to Collapse: 1

    Interior Collapse: 1

        Floor: 1

    Exterior Collapse: 0


Activity Type

    Advancing Hoselines: 1

    Search: 0

    Ventilation: 0

    Water Supply: 1


Cause of Death

    Collapse: 1

    Heart Attack: 1


Nature of Death

    Blank: 1

    Stress/Overexertion: 1



Non-Fireground Fatalities: 3

Activity Type

    In-Station Duties: 2

    Other: 1


Cause of Death

    Fall: 1

    Unknown: 1

    Vehicle Collison: 1

        Struck by Vehicle at Accident Scene: 1

Nature of Death

    Trauma: 2

    Unknown: 1


Deaths Outside of the ‘Traditional’ Thought of Line of Duty: 2

1: Victim injured after falling from apparatus (parked) while returning it to service

1: Victim found unresponsive in firehouse while preparing for training.



1. “On Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?” Carey, FireRescueMagazine.com, March 2013
2. “One Out of 93” Carey, FirefighterNation.com / FireRescueMagazine.com, January 2018
3. Matthew LeTourneau, Philadelphia Fire Department, USFA, January 6, 2018
4. “Philadelphia Firefighters Battle Two-Alarm Fire; Lieutenant Killed in Collapse” FirefighterNation.com, January 6, 2018
5. Dwayne “Yogi” Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Fire Service, USFA, January 24, 2018
6. John Randle, Wamego City Fire Department, USFA, January 2, 2018
7. Russell Achord, West Feliciana Parish Fire Protection District No.1, USFA, January 17, 2018
8. Derrick Ryan Webb, Hardy’s Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, USFA, January 17, 2018


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