The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.
Photo credit: U.S. Fire Administration
Taking a look at the 93 on-duty firefighter fatalities in 2017 reveals similar trends from previous years, with cardiac and health-related issues marking a bulk of the fire service’s losses.
According to numbers provided by the U.S. Fire Administration, the overwhelming physical stress firefighting has on the body remains at the forefront of modern firefighter health and safety. There were 58 line-of-duty deaths last year related to cardiac or other medical issues while firefighters were either on scene at an incident or within the 24-hour span afterward.
Given these incidents, many firefighter organizations across the country continue to stress to need for proper diet and exercise to counter the demanding physical nature of the job.
As the number of structure fires continues its decades-long downward trend, only five firefighters died from serious injuries sustained as a result of such incidents. Five wildland firefighters were also killed last year during wildfires, three of them by falling trees.
Vehicle wrecks marked the second highest cause of on-duty deaths last year with 23, and roadside safety remains a big concern with several of those deaths caused by drivers striking firefighters who were outside their vehicles at the scene of a previous incident.
One of the defining characteristics of 2017 was the amount of progress made on addressing the cancer risks firefighters face. As more and more states begin to contemplate presumptive cancer legislation, the numbers on line-of-duty deaths may see significant changes in the coming years.
Although cancer-related deaths are not considered line of duty by the USFA, fire departments across the country have begun taking proactive steps to protect their personnel from carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.
The personnel lost on duty in 2017 were 54 firefighters, 25 officers, 10 fire chiefs, two probationary firefighters and two inmates.