USA — Heart attacks once again accounted for nearly half of on-duty firefighter deaths last year, according to the USFA’s Firefighter Fatality Provisional 2007 Report.
The administration listed 115 on-duty deaths for 2007, an increase of nine firefighter fatalities compared to the previous 12 months.
Of the deaths in 2007, 45.2 percent were caused by heart attacks, which has been about the average figure in recent years, followed by trauma (28.6 percent).
The report reveals that more than 30 percent of fatalities last year occurred on-scene at fires followed by responding, which contributed about 21 percent.
In addition, while the number of on-duty deaths was a sharp increase on the 2006 figure of 106, it was roughly in line with the figures in 2005 (115) and 2004 (119).
One of the biggest variations in deaths came in wildfire-related fatalities, with 10 firefighters being killed in wildland incidents, compared to an average of 20 over the previous 10 years.
“With the wildfire year we’ve had, with those terrible fires in California and elsewhere, to have that low a figure is exceptional,” said Mark Whitney, fire program specialist at the USFA.
However, overall 2007 was still a “terrible year” for firefighter fatalities, said Whitney, but he expressed hope the various fire service safety initiatives would soon make an impression on the annual figures.
Whitney also said he was confident the efforts of organizations such as the USFA, the NFFF, the IAFC, the IAAF and the NVFC were helping save firefighters lives.
“I think there has been a real push over the past five years or so,” he said. “I think more and more, the culture is changing.”
Whitney also stressed the importance of fire departments adhering to NFPA standards to ensure firefighters are not exposed to unnecessary risks.
“These standards were not invented just out of the blue, they are there for a reason, whether it be staffing levels or the way people conduct themselves on the fireground,” he said.