U.S. Fire Administrator Calls 2007 'Most Tragic' Year in Recent Memory

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) released provisional 2007 firefighter statistics yesterday that show there were 115 on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States last year.

"This past year will be remembered by the entire fire service as one of the most tragic years for firefighters in recent memory," said Greg Cade, United States fire administrator. "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."

In 2007, there were firefighters lost in 33 states and Washington, DC. South Carolina experienced the highest number of fatalities (11) while Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, and California each suffered more than 5 on-duty losses.

Heart attacks and vehicle accidents were responsible for the deaths of 54 firefighters (47 percent) in 2007, down from 54 of the 106 (51 percent) firefighters in 2006. In 2007, 10 on-duty firefighters died in association with wildland fires.

On June 18th, Charleston, S.C. lost nine firefighters while working to control a fire in a large sofa warehouse facility. Each year, firefighters becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fireground fatalities. For 2007, 64 percent of all firefighter fatalities occurred while performing emergency duties. Almost 42 percent were at structure fires with 19 caught or trapped (16.5 percent).

Speed and a lack of seat belts contributed to many deaths as well. More than two of every 10 firefighter fatalities in 2007 occurred when responding to or returning from an incident. While seat belts and speed were not necessarily factors in all of these fatalities, they were contributing factors for most of them.

USFA says the fatality statistics for 2007 are provisional and very much subject to change as it contacts State Fire Marshals to verify the names of firefighters reported to have died on-duty during 2007. The final, annual firefighter fatality report for 2007 is expected to be available by early June.

For more information, visit www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities/.

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