May 2016 On-Duty Deaths

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.

May ended as the month with the lowest number (three) of firefighter fatalities to date.  The last time the fire service experienced a low number month was in 2013. Three firefighters died in the month of September and two in the month of January [1].  The month of May also saw the death of the oldest firefighter to date.  At the beginning of the month a 75-year old volunteer firefighter died, raising the number of firefighter fatalities age 65 and older to three. The USFA age range of 61 and over is currently the second highest range of fatalities this year [2]. Presently, firefighters between the ages of 41 to 50 and 51 to 60 tie for the highest number of fatalities by age.

Only one firefighter died during an actual fire in May.  The incident actually occurred at the end of April, but the victim succumbed to his heart attack in the first week of May. A Vermont firefighter would become the fifth fatality listed under the activity type ‘Advancing Hose Lines’ for the year [3].  His death, during a brush fire, would be the third involving an outside fire.  One firefighter passed away in January from injuries sustained during a 2015 grass fire, and another in February from being injured in a wildfire.

The fatalities in May start with the death of an elderly New York volunteer firefighter.  On 2 May the 75-year old had responded to his firehouse in the early evening for an emergency call [4].  Local news reports that the call was an EMS call and that the victim had collapsed on the driveway of his home [5].  The USFA lists his nature and cause of death as ‘Unknown’.

The second fatality in the month would be the death of the firefighter previously mentioned at the introduction.  On 27 April Vermont firefighters responded to a grass fire. During the fire a 58-year old volunteer firefighter suffered a heart attack. Firefighters quickly initiated care with CPR and an AED.  The victim was transported to hospital where he remained until his death on 5 May [6].  His death would be the first line of duty death in the department’s 64-year history.  The victim had served the volunteer fire department for over 40 years and had retired from a career fire department in 2010 [7].

The final firefighter fatality of the month occurred on 7 May in North Carolina.  A 45-year old volunteer firefighter was working on the scene of a motor vehicle accident with extrication when he began to experience chest pains [8].  EMS began to treat him and while en route to the hospital he experienced cardiac arrest.  Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Heart attack has claimed eight of the 24 firefighter fatalities recorded at the end of May. They account for almost 35 percent of the nature of fatal injury.  ‘Unknown’ accounts for 30 percent. Six were volunteer firefighters and two were career firefighters.  The average age of those who suffered a heart attack is 54.  The youngest, two, were 45; the oldest was 71.  Three of the eight were stricken while either responding to or on the scene of a fire.  One collapsed while struggling with a combative patient in the emergency room.  Two heart attacks occurred during training; one while the victim was participating in search and rescue training, the other at a training meeting.

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 (1)

    Victim inside Structure: 0
    Victim outside Structure: 0 (1)

Deaths in 1- and 2-Family Dwellings: 0 (1)
    Victim Collapsed after Fire Knockdown/Under Control/During Overhaul: 0 (1)

Deaths in Multi-Family Dwellings: 0

Deaths in Educational, Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Occupancies: 0 (1)
    Victim collapsed inside after Fire Knockdown/Under Control/During Overhaul: 0 (1)

Deaths in Vacant/Abandoned Structures: 0


Multi-Fatality Incidents: 0


Nature of Death

Asphyxiation: 0 (1)

Burns: 0 (1)

Cerebrovascular Accident: 0

Crushed: 0

Drowning: 0

Electrocution: 0

Exposure: 0

Heart Attack: 2 (8)

Not Stated: 0

Other: 0

Trauma: 0 (3)

Unknown: 1 (8)

Violence: 0 (2)


Cause of Death

Assault: 0

Caught/Trapped: 0 (2)

Collapse: 0

Contact With: 0

Exposure: 0

Fall: 0 (1)

Lost: 0

Other: 0

Out of Air: 0 (1)

Stress/Overexertion: 2 (10)

Struck by: 1 (3)

Trauma: 0

Vehicle Collision: 0 (1)

Unknown: 1 (5)


Average Age: 58

Youngest: 45

Oldest: 73

Firefighters 65 years old or older at time of death: 1 (3)

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


Volunteer: 3 (14)

Career: 0 (10)

    Paid on Call: 0 (1)



County Fire Coordinator: 0

Fire Chief: 0

Deputy Chief: 0 (1)

Assistant Chief: 0 (1)

Battalion Chief: 0

Major: 0

Captain: 0 (1)

Lieutenant: 0 (3)

Sergeant: 0

Safety Officer: 0 (1)

Fire Crew Supervisor: 0

Firefighter: 3 (13)
    1: Posthumously promoted to Lieutenant

Firefighter/Ranger/Wildfire Contracted: 0

Pilot: 0

Recruit/Trainee: 0 (2)

Driver/Operator/Engineer: 0 (2)

Fire-Police: 0

Fire Marshal: 0

Department of Defense: 0

Chaplain: 0

Wildland Full-Time: 0

Wildland Part-Time: 0 (1)


Deaths Involving Lack of Seatbelt Use: 0

Deaths Involving Apparatus Accidents: 0 (2)


Fireground Assignment/Activity at Time of Death

Incident Command: 0

Fire Attack: 1 (5)

    Advancing Hoseline: 1 (5)
    Inside Structure: 0 (2)
        1: Residential; Overhaul
        1: Commercial; Unknown
    Outside Structure: 1 (3)
        1: Grass Fire
        1: Wildland
        1: Brush Fire
    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: 1 (1)*
    * Narrative states victim suffered chest pains while assisting with extrication at MVA; USFA activity type left blank.

Scene Safety: 0

Support: 0


EMS/Patient Care: 0 (3)
    Uncooperative/Combative Patient: 0 (3)
        Assault: 0 (1)
        Shooting: 0 (2)

Death As a Result of EMS Exposure: 0

Vehicle Collision/Driving/Operating (Riding) Vehicle/Apparatus: 0 (4)
    Personal Vehicle: 0 (2)
    Department Apparatus: 0 (2)

Deaths Which Occurred During Training: 0 (2)
    Search and Rescue training: 0 (1)
    Physical training: 0 (1)


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: 1 (9)
1: Victim died at home several hours after responding to firehouse for an emergency call

1. Summary Incident Report 2013, On-Duty Firefighter Fatalities, United States Fire Administration
2. ibid
3. ibid
4. Theodore A. Stafford, Sag Harbor Fire Department
5. “Longtime Sag Harbor Fire Department Volunteer Ted Stafford Jr. Dies on May 2” The Southampton Press, May 6, 2016
6. Steven Lapierre, Georgia Volunteer Fire Department
7. “Georgia Firefighter Dies after Heart Attack” Free Press Staff, Burlington Free Press, May 5, 2016
8. John Morris Davis, Jr., Kenly Volunteer Fire Department



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