U.S. firefighter fatalities fell 3.2 percent in 1996

U.S. firefighter fatalities fell 3.2 percent in 1996

On-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States dropped 3.2 percent, to 92 deaths, in 1996, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). That is the fourth year in the past five in which there were fewer than 100 firefighter fatalities. Sixty-four local volunteer firefighters, 25 career municipal firefighters, two seasonal employees of federal forestry agencies, and one state forestry agency firefighter died in the line of duty in 1996.

The report, however, identifies two areas of concern: heart attack deaths and motor vehicle incidents. Heart attacks account for about half of the deaths each year, the report notes. Medical documentation indicates that most victims had prior heart or circulatory problems. Volunteer firefighters have been involved in all fatalities related to motor vehicle incidents during 1996. “Firefighter health and safety are top priorities for the NFPA,” says Rita Fahy, NFPA manager of fire databases and systems and a co-author of the report. “Additional reductions in firefighter fatalities could be achieved if more attention to these priorities were paid by fire departments as well as individual firefighters.”

The breakdown of 1996 firefighter on-duty deaths is as follows:

32 deaths occurred on the fireground, 18 from heart attacks.

30 deaths occurred while firefighters responded to or were returning from alarms; 14 were due to collisions and rollovers; 11 were attributed to heart attacks.

15 deaths occurred during nonemergency-related on-duty activities; seven firefighters suffered fatal heart attacks and four were murdered by an off-duty firefighter.

Eight firefighters died during training activities, six from heart attacks.

Seven deaths occurred at nonfire emergencies; three were from fatal heart attacks. Five deaths were associated with set or suspicious fires; four were in conjunction with false alarms.

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