According to provisional fatality statistics released by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), 115 on-duty firefighters died in 2007, prompting Fire Administrator Greg Cade to label it one of the most tragic years for firefighters in recent memory.
Fifty-four firefighters lost their lives to heart attacks or vehicle accidents in 2007, representing nearly half of all on-duty deaths that occurred throughout the year. More than two of every 10 fatalities occurred while firefighters were responding to or returning from incidents, and USFA cites speed and lack of seat belt use as significant contributing factors to these many of these deaths.
Almost 42 percent of fallen firefighters died while fighting structural fires. Nineteen of these responders died after becoming caught or trapped within a burning building, including the nine Charleston, S.C., firefighters who lost their lives June 18 in a sofa warehouse facility. Becoming disoriented and trapped is one of the leading causes of structural fire fatalities.
Additionally, ten firefighters died while working with wildland fires. Sixty-four percent of all 2007 firefighter fatalities occurred while responders were performing emergency duties.
“We are committed to continuing our dedicated efforts with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Volunteer Fire Council, International Association of Firefighters, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to make sure 2008 is not a repeat of 2007 and a year in which everyone goes home at the end of their emergency response assignments, Cade said.
In 2006, 106 firefighters died while on duty. The 2007 statistics are provisional and are subject to change before USFA releases its annual firefighter fatality report in June.