NFPA: Number of On-Duty Firefighter Deaths Lowest in 34 Years

This is a sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009 and it is the lowest annual total since the NFPA began conducting this annual study in 1977.

The number of on-duty firefighter deaths is the lowest since 1977, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) annual Firefighter Fatality Report, which shows that a total of 72 on-duty firefighter deaths occurred in the United States in 2010. This is a sharp drop from the 105 on-duty deaths in 2008 and 82 in 2009 and it is the lowest annual total since the NFPA began conducting this annual study in 1977.

“We are very pleased to see that the number of on-duty firefighter deaths is at an historic low and continues to decline each year,” said James Shannon, president and CEO of NFPA. “We strongly believe that the advances in training, equipment and fire codes are a major factor in reducing the deaths of these brave men and women that make up the ranks of volunteer and career firefighters.”

This is the fifth time in the past 10 years that the total number of deaths has been below 100. While the number of total deaths has dropped sharply, the number of cardiac-related deaths has not. The number of such deaths has been remarkably stable over the past six years.

The report found that the areas in which the deaths declined was diverse. 2010 saw the lowest number of fire ground deaths ever at 21, and the second lowest number of deaths while responding to or returning from alarms at 18 deaths. Deaths related to training activities and deaths while engaged in other non-emergency duties about matched the average numbers from the previous 10 years (11 and 18 deaths, respectively).

Other key findings in the report include:

  • There were nine deaths in crashes of road vehicles in 2010, as well as in 2009, which is the lowest since 1983.
  • There were 44 volunteer firefighter deaths in 2010, which continues a downward trend.
  • The ages of all U.S. firefighters who died ranged from 20 to 86 with a median age of 52.5 years.

Each year, the NFPA collects data on all firefighter fatalities in the U.S. that result from injuries or illnesses that occurred while the victims were on-duty. The term “on-duty” refers to being at the scene of an alarm, whether a fire or non-fire incident; while responding to or returning from an alarm; while participating in other fire department duties. This annual report is considered the definitive source of on-duty firefighter deaths.

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