The first multi-fatality incident
in two years

FILE – This combination of undated file photos provided by the Porterville, Calif., Fire Department shows firefighter Patrick Jones, left, and Capt. Raymond Figueroa. Murder charges were filed Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, against two 13-year-old boys suspected of starting a blaze that killed the two firefighters at a central California library.
(Porterville Fire Department via AP)

By Bill Carey

February 2020 ended with four on-duty deaths as defined by the United States Fire Administration.  February 2020 also ended with the first multiple fatality incident of the year.

January 2020 On-Duty Deaths

Conflict in the presented data appears in the category of activity type, specifically regarding Advancing Hoselines and Search.

Two volunteer firefighters and two career firefighters make up the employment data of the February fatalities. As far as rank, Firefighter leads with two, followed by Fire Chief (1), and Captain (1).  The youngest victim was 25, the oldest 71.  The average age among the total fatalities is 44.

The leading cause of death and the leading nature of death are unknown.  This is due to the nature of current investigation of two firefighters in a structure fire.

One death is related to vehicles and presumed lack of seat belt use.  On 12 February a 71-year old volunteer fire chief was driving fire apparatus (non-emergency) when the vehicle went off the road.  The driver overcorrected and the vehicle overturned, ejecting the victim.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.  Vehicle related deaths stand at nearly half of total (five out of 12) of on-duty deaths at the end of February.

Heart attack claimed a 46-year old volunteer firefighter at home after fighting a grass fire. This brings the total of deaths due to heart attack at the end of the month to four. This death is listed as Advancing Hoselines.

Among fireground fatalities there were two, both at the same incident.  On 18 February two career firefighters were killed while fighting a fire in a library.  The possible conflict in the data is with the activity type. Both victims are currently listed as Advancing Hoselines, yet news reports and fireground audio can lead us to presume that they were searching for occupants still possibly inside.  It is also presumed their deaths can be listed under disorientation, based on news reports, while the investigation is still being done.  The cause of the fire is reported to be arson.

California Firefighter Killed, Another Unaccounted for in Blaze
Teens Arrested for California Library Fire and Line of Duty Death
President Trump Honors Fallen Porterville Firefighters

Body of Missing Porterville Firefighter Recovered
Press Conference: Porterville Line of Duty Deaths
Murder Charges for Teens in California Library Fire

The total number of firefighters killed while inside a burning structure stands at three at the end of February.

Manuel Galindo, Jr.
Ramon “Ray” Figueroa
Patrick Jones
Donald “Donny” Lepper

Data in Detail

(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)

Month: 4 (12)

February 2019: 3; 2018: 5; 2017: 11; 2016: 6; 2015: 8

January 2019: 2; 2018: 5; 2017: 5; 2016: 7; 2015: 6

Hometown Heroes: 2

Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0 (1*)

* Victim killed in vehicle collision returning home from fire

Advancing Hoseline: 2* (3)

                Residential Structure: 0 (1)

                                (Structure Collapse (floor): 1)

                                (First Arriving/First Alarm: 1)

                Commercial Structure: 2* (reports of victims searching for occupants)
                                Disorientation: 2*
                                First Arriving/First Alarm: 2

Advancing Hoseline (not inside structure):1

                Victim suffered heart attack after grass fire

Search: 0 (1*)

* Victim responded to call for vehicle submerged in ice; died at home next day

Ventilation: 0

Deaths involving Disorientation: 2*
                Commercial Structure: 2* (victims separated, possibly lost)

Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0

Deaths Involving Residential Structural Collapse during Fire: 0 (1)

                (Victim inside Structure: 1)

                                (Victim fell into basement: 1)

                                                (First Arriving/First Alarm: 1)

                Victim outside Structure: 0

Deaths Involving Commercial Structural Collapse during Fire: 0

                Victim inside Structure: 0

                Victim outside Structure: 0

Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0 (1)

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 2

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0

Deaths where occupants were known/reported to be out of fire structure:0 (1)
Multi-Fatality Incidents: 1
                1: Two killed in commercial structure fire

Extrication: 0

Pump Operations: 0

Water Supply: 0

Overhaul/Salvage: 0

On Scene: 0

Scene Safety: 0

Support: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding) Vehicle/Apparatus: 1 (5*)

                Apparatus: 1 (4*)
                * Victim listed as driving/operating apparatus; collapsed while preparing to respond

                * Victim listed as incident command; killed in vehicle collision returning home from fire

                Personal Vehicle: 0 (1)

Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 1

                Deaths Involving Apparatus: 1 (2*)

                                Engine: 1 (2)

                                                (Responding: 1)

                                                (Fire: 1)

                                                                Driving: 0 (2)

                                                                Riding: 0

                                                Non-emergency: 1

                                                                Driving: 1

                                Engine/Tanker or Tanker: 0

                                Ladder, Tower: 0

                                Rescue: 0

                                Other:0 (1*)

                                                *Fire marshal returning home from fire killed in vehicle collision

Vehicle Related:0 (1)

                (Struck at MVA: 1)

EMS/Patient Care:0 (1)

                Struck at MVA:0 (1)

                Uncooperative/Combative Patient: 0

                                Assault: 0

                                Shooting: 0

Death as a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0

Department of Defense, Military fire-service LODDs: 0

Deaths Linked to 11 September 2001: 0

Cause of Death

Assault: 0

Caught/Trapped: 0

Collapse: 0

Contact With: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0 (1)

Lost: 0

Other: 0 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 1 (3)

Struck By: 0 (1)

                (Vehicle: 1)

Vehicle Collision: 1 (4)

Unknown: 2 (4)

Nature of Death

Asphyxiation: 0

Burns: 0

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0

Crushed: 0

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 1 (3)

Not Stated: 0

Other: 0 (1)

Trauma: 1 (6)

Unknown: 2 (4)

Violence: 0

Average Age: 44

                Youngest: 25

                Oldest: 71

                                Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (2)

                                Volunteer firefighter 19-years old or younger who died responding to alarm or station: 0

Volunteer: 2 (4)

Career: 2 (9)

                (Paid on Call: 1)

                (Part-Time: 1)

Rank/Position

County Fire Coordinator: 0

Fire Chief: 1 (3)

Deputy Chief: 0

Assistant Chief: 0

Battalion Chief: 0

Major: 0

Captain: 1

Lieutenant:0 (1)

Sergeant: 0

Safety Officer: 0

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0

Firefighter: 2 (6)

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0

Recruit/Trainee: 0

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (1)

Fire-Police: 0

Fire Marshal: 0 (1)

Department of Defense: 0

Chaplain: 0

Wildland Full-Time: 0

Wildland Part-Time: 0

Deaths Which Occurred Outside the “Traditional” Line of Duty Definition: 2 (7)

Victim killed in other on-duty vehicle crash

Victim died at home after responding to a grass fire

Victim found unresponsive in firehouse office

Victim died at home day after responding to call fire vehicle under ice

Victim collapsed while preparing to respond to a fire

Victim killed in vehicle collision returning home after fire

Victim found deceased in bunkroom after 24-hour shift

Victim killed in vehicle collision returning home after mandated training