Heart Attack Remains Leading Cause of Firefighter Line-of-Duty-Deaths

In a provisional report released in January, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) announced that there were 81 on-duty firefighter fatalities in the U.S. in 2011, a seven percent decrease from the 87 fatalities reported for 2010. This marks the fourth year of decreased total line-of-duty deaths. However, heart attack remained the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths by far, causing over half of the fatalities in 2010.

Heart attacks and strokes were responsible for the deaths of 48 firefighters (59 percent) in 2011, nearly the same proportion of firefighter deaths from heart attack or stroke (60 percent) in 2010. Ten on-duty firefighters died in association with wildland fires, the lowest number of annual firefighter deaths associated with wildland fires since 1996. Fifty-four percent of all firefighter fatalities occurred while performing emergency duties. Only three firefighters were killed in vehicle collisions.

While the overall line-of-duty death rate continues to drop, dozens of firefighters are still dying each year from heart disease. Firefighters can take steps now to reduce their risk and change the statistics. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) provides free resources, tools, and information at www.healthy-firefighter.org to help first responders and their families reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

The 2011 firefighter fatality statistics are provisional and may change as the USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on duty during 2011.  The final number of firefighter fatalities will be reported in USFA’s annual firefighter fatality report, expected to be available by July 2012. For additional information on firefighter fatalities, including the annual fatality reports from 1986 through 2010 and the Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990-2000, please visit www.usfa.fema.gov.

For more information on firefighter cardiac health, problems, and treatment, consult Firefighter Health Report: Firefighting Affects Cardiac System, New Study Examines Sudden Cardiac Events in Firefighters, Acute Coronary Syndromes in Firefighters: An “Athletic” Approach to Prevention, and Firefighter Obesity: A Public Safety Risk.

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