January 2017 On-Duty Death Details

Update: The USFA announced the death of a New York firefighter in January, on 2 March 2017. This latest information is included in a revision of the data provided below.


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.  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?”  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.

Six firefighter fatalities were recorded in the month of January. This number was one of the lowest Januarys in the last five years. Two firefighters died in January 2013 and 13 died in January 2011. The department classification for this month’s fatalities is five volunteer firefighters and one career firefighter.

The average age of the deceased is 53.  The youngest was 34, the oldest 80 and our first fatality over the age of 65.  The breakdown of the rank of the deceased is as follows:

Fire Chief: 1
Assistant Chief: 1
Captain: 1
Firefighter: 2 (Probationary Firefighter: 1)
Engineer: 1

Not one of the victims died inside a burning structure in the first month of 2017. The last time a fatality occurred in this setting was on 24 September 2016 in Wilmington, Delaware where two firefighters were killed in a floor collapse during a residential structure fire.  A third firefighter injured in the collapse succumbed to her injuries on 1 December of that year.

Vehicle Collision was the leading cause of death for January.  Two firefighters died in traffic accidents that did not involve an emergency response.  One of these was a POV crash while responding home after the alarm.  In conjunction with the leading cause of death, Trauma was the leading nature of death with the same two fatalities. Of the vehicle collisions only one involved fire department apparatus. The victim in this instance was killed while conducting department business and her vehicle was struck, forced into oncoming traffic and eventually off the road.

Heart attack and cardiac arrest claimed two firefighters in January, although the one who suffered cardiac arrest his cause and nature of death is listed as “unknown.”  The cardiac arrest victim was 67 years old; the heart attack victim was 53.

Of the five fatalities for the month, three fall into the category, for discussion purposes, of outside the traditional line of duty death (i.e. fighting fire, responding to an alarm). They include a fatal POV crash while returning home from an alarm; a heart attack several hours after a department meeting; and death 10 days after falling ill while at work.

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.

Data in Detail


(Number in parentheses is YTD as of posting)

Deaths involving Disorientation: 0

Deaths involving Flashover, Backdraft, Explosive Incident: 0

Deaths Involving Residential Structural Collapse during Fire: 0
    Victim inside Structure: 0
    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

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 0

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0


Multi-Fatality Incidents: 0


Nature of Death

Asphyxiation: 0

Blank: 1 (1)

Burns: 0

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0

Crushed: 0

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 1 (1)

Not Stated: 0

Other: 0

Trauma: 2 (2)

Unknown: 2 (2)

Violence: 0


Cause of Death

Assault: 0

Blank: 1 (1)

Caught/Trapped: 0

Collapse: 0

Contact With: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0

Lost: 0

Other: 0

Out of Air: 0

Stress/Overexertion: 1 (1)

Struck by: 0

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 2 (2)
    Killed in POV crash: 1 (1)

Unknown: 2 (2)


Average Age: 53

Youngest: 34

Oldest: 80

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

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


Volunteer: 5 (5)

Career: 1 (1)

    Paid on Call: 0



County Fire Coordinator: 0

Fire Chief: 1 (1)

Deputy Chief: 0

Assistant Chief: 1 (1)

Battalion Chief: 0

Major: 0

Captain: 1 (1)

Lieutenant: 0

Sergeant: 0

Safety Officer: 0

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0

Firefighter: 2 (2)
    Probationary: 1 (1)

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0

Recruit/Trainee: 0

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 1 (1)

Fire-Police: 0

Fire Marshal: 0

Department of Defense: 0

Chaplain: 0

Wildland Full-Time: 0

Wildland Part-Time: 0


Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 1 (1)


Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0

Fire Attack: 0

    Advancing Hoseline: 0
    Search: 0

Ventilation (Roof): 0

Deaths where occupants were known to be out of fire structure: 0


Extrication: 0

Pump Operations: 0

Water Supply: 0

Overhaul/Salvage: 0

On Scene: 0

Scene Safety: 0

Support: 0


EMS/Patient Care: 0

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding) Vehicle/Apparatus: 2 (2)
    Personal Vehicle: 1 (1)
        Responding: 0
        Returning: 1 (1)        

    Department Apparatus/Vehicle: 1 (1)
        Emergency Response: 0
        Non-emergency Response: 1 (1)

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0

Department of Defense, Military fire-service LODDs: 0


Deaths Linked to 11 September 2001: 0


Deaths Which Occurred Outside the “Traditional” Line of Duty Definition:
4 (4)
    1: Victim killed in POV crash while returning home from emergency call
    1: Victim suffered a heart attack several hours after a fire department meeting
    1: Victim fell ill during shift, was out sick the next shift and died at hospital 10 days later.
    1: Victim passed away at home within 24 hours of responding to emergency incidents.


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