NFPA: 61 firefighter on-duty fatalities in 2011

Sixty-one firefighters died in the line of duty in 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) annual “Firefighter Fatality Report.” NFPA says this is the lowest annual total of firefighter deaths for the second consecutive year, as well as the lowest annual total in 35 years.

Other findings contained in the report include the following:

  • Of the 61 firefighters who died while on duty in 2011, 35 were volunteer firefighters, 21 were career firefighters, three were employees of state land management agencies, and two were employees of federal land management agencies.
  • The greatest number of deaths occurred while firefighters were operating on the fireground, representing 49 percent of the on-duty deaths.
  • The decline of firefighter deaths occurred in the following areas:
    —lowest number of sudden cardiac deaths.
    —lowest number of road vehicle crashes.
    —no aircraft or watercraft crashes.
    —the number of deaths while involved in training activities (the lowest since 1999).
    —lowest number of volunteer firefighter deaths ever.
    —lowest number of career firefighter deaths (tied with 1993).
    —lowest number of deaths while responding to or returning from alarms.

Additional information about the NFPA and the 2011 “Firefighter Fatality Report” is at www.nfpa.org.


Line-of-Duty Deaths

June 8. Firefighter Anthony Polk, 31, Bureau of Indian Affairs—Fort Yuma (AZ) Agency: single fire apparatus accident.

June 11. Assistant Chief Donald L. Suggs, 55, Summerville Fire and Rescue Department, Lillington, NC: apparent heart attack.

June 23. Chief George Davis, 62, Hollis (ME) Fire Department: apparent heart attack.

June 27. Firefighter Ronald Keddie, 64, Sheridan (NY) Fire Department: cause pending further investigation.

June 29. Lieutenant/EMT John L. Echternach Jr., 54, Boones Mill (VA) Volunteer Fire Department: injuries sustained from being struck by a tree while assisting a driver whose car had been hit by a tree.

July 1. Firefighter Rocky E. Dunkin, 24, Nile Township Volunteer Fire Department, Friendship, OH: cause to be determined.

July 1. Lieutenant Colonel/Evaluator Pilot Paul K. Mikeal, 42, North Carolina Air National Guard, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, NC: air crash while working on the White Draw fire in South Dakota.

July 1. Major/Instructor Pilot Joseph M. McCormick, 36, North Carolina Air National Guard, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, NC: air crash while working on the White Draw fire in South Dakota.

July 1. Major/Navigator Ryan S. David, 35, North Carolina Air National Guard, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, NC: air crash while working on the White Draw fire in South Dakota.

July 1. Senior Master Sergeant/Flight Engineer Robert S. Cannon, 50, North Carolina Air National Guard, 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, NC: air crash while working on the White Draw fire in South Dakota.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database


Chicago City Council OKs signs warning of unsafe buildings

In response to the December 22, 2010, house fire in which the roof collapsed and killed Firefighters Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum and injured 17 other firefighters, the city of Chicago (IL) has moved to help prevent similar fatalities in the future. Emergency dispatchers and signage will warn firefighters, police, and paramedics responding to fires in vacant structures of the structures’ hazards.

Using a list of dangerous buildings compiled by the city, 911 will warn first responders en route to those fire sites. In addition, the structure will be identified by a 2- × 2-foot reflective sign bearing a large red “X.” (Hal Dardick, reporter, hdardick@tribune.com, chicagotribune.com)


NFPA: Intense heat may degrade SCBA face piece lenses

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) issued a safety alert on self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) face piece lenses in June. Among other things, the NFPA is recommending that fire departments, fire academies, and emergency service organizations inspect all SCBA face piece lenses before and after each use. Any SCBA face piece lens found to have cracks, crazing, bubbling, deformation, discoloring, gaps, or holes should be immediately removed from service and replaced. SCBA face piece lenses may undergo thermal degradation when exposed to intense heat. The full alert and the NFPA’s recommendations can be found at www.nfpa.org/scba.

During the investigation of firefighter fatalities that occurred from 2002 to 2011, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found evidence of thermal degradation of face piece lenses that may have been a contributing factor in three fatalities, according to the NFPA. NIOSH also reported on the investigation of three SCBA from a state training academy where the SCBA face piece lens showed evidence of thermal degradation after being used in live fire training. Additionally, in four other NIOSH line-of-duty death investigations, the evidence, while not conclusive, was suggestive of possible SCBA degradation or failure.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the NIOSH Division of Safety Research, Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program brought the concerns about face piece lenses identified in the NIOSH investigations to the attention of the NFPA Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment.

NIST developed and provided new testing and performance methodologies on respiratory protection equipment to the NFPA Technical Committee. Based on the information learned from the NIOSH investigations and NIST research, the Technical Committee is incorporating new test methods and performance and criteria for face piece lenses into the proposed 2013 edition of NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Service, which is anticipated to be issued as early as the fall of 2012. Information on the development of this new edition is available at http://www.nfpa.org/1981next.


IAFC urges fire departments to preplan for wildland fires

International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) President and Chairman of the Board Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MiFireE, has issued an appeal to fire departments to “engage with” the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy), ideally before they are called to fight wildland fires. These fires, today, “are more frequent, bigger, more dangerous, more expensive, more damaging, and harder to fight,” he stressed.

“Local fire departments are taking on an increasing role in wildland fire preparedness and response,” Gillespie explains, and although the fire service has “regularly improved strategies to deal with them, these strategies will only work if fire chiefs make it a priority to learn about the problem and how to implement these strategies.”

The “Cohesive Strategy” was developed by all stakeholders—federal, state, tribal, and local fire departments—and collaboration among these stakeholders at the national and regional levels is at its core. The plan is being implemented by three regional committees: Northeast, Southern, and Western. Since wildland fires and cultures are more homogenous within each region than across the country as a whole, Gillespie notes, fire-management approaches may differ from region to region.

Gillespie warns against the mentality that says “Wildfires won’t happen to me.” Fire chiefs/departments should care about this problem for many reasons including the fact that once a wildland fire starts, you’re too late, Gillespie says. Wildland fires are fast moving, highly unpredictable, and unlike any structure fire firefighters are used to, explains Gillespie. Fire departments cannot handle them safely alone; a well-coordinated response with other agencies is critical to success. Fire departments need to prepare now, not when the fire is at their doorstep, urges Gillespie. The full appeal is at the Cohesive Strategy Web page: http://www.iafc.org/Media/PressReleaseDetail.cfm?ItemNumber=6068.


“Have Two Ways Out!” is theme of Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13

The theme of Fire Prevention Week, October 7-13, 2012, is “Have Two Ways Out!” The objective of the National Fire Protection Association, the sponsor of Fire Prevention Week, is “to encourage families across the country to prioritize fire escape planning and practice.” The campaign will stress that families should have a home fire escape plan—and a backup escape plan—that will enable them to get out of the house quickly when the smoke alarm sounds.

Additional information about Fire Prevention Week is at www.firepreventionweek.org.


NFPA Firewise® photo contest deadline November 2

The National Fire Protection Association will accept photos for its 2014 Calendar Firewise® Day Photo Contest through November 2, 2012. Photos are to depict community members actively participating in a Firewise® Day event or activity. Recognized Firewise® communities must hold a Firewise® Day event that helps to make a community safer from wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together.

Winning entries will be displayed in the 2014 Firewise® calendar, which will be a resource for homeowners, wildfire mitigation specialists, landscape architects, planners, and others who work within their community to reduce damage caused by brush, grass, and forest fires. Fifteen photos, one for each month beginning with December 2013 and for the back and front covers, will be selected. The winners will be announced February 8, 2013.

Information on contest rules, planning events, and Firewise® success stories are at www.firewise.org.


NGA hosts D Block meeting

In June, the National Governors Association (NGA) hosted the “Preparing for Public Safety Broadband” forum to help states implement the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide broadband public safety communications network on a portion of the D Block spectrum of the broadband network. According to the NGA, the allocated portion of the D block is a “cornerstone” of the nation’s first interoperable public safety broadband network. Under the legislation, FirstNet is to construct and operate the network in “direct” coordination with governors.

Representatives from nearly 50 states and territories attended the NGA forum; they discussed options for constructing the network, particularly the following topics:

  • Challenges and opportunities related to moving to the public safety broadband.
  • Updating and developing statewide communications plans and business models for network development.
  • The differences between participating in the national network and building a separate state network.
  • Supporting additional opportunities for state leadership on broadband build-out and governance.

During the forum, NGA released “Steps to Prepare for Public Safety Broadband” and an accompanying white paper. They outline the essential steps states can take now to prepare for implementation. Additional information is at www.nga.org.

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