USFA Releases Annual Report on Firefighter Fatalities in the United States

Oct. 12, 2010
Heart attacks were the most frequent cause of death for on-duty firefighters, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), which recently released the report, Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2009. The report continues a series of annual studies by the USFA of on-duty firefighter fatalities. The USFA is the single public agency source of information for all on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States each year.

Ninety on-duty firefighters from 33 states lost their lives as the result of incidents that occurred in 2009. Heart attacks were responsible for 39 firefighter deaths. Pennsylvania experienced the highest number of fatalities (8). In addition to Pennsylvania, only New York (7), North Carolina (6), Louisiana (5) and Texas (5) had five or more firefighter fatalities. This compares favorably to 2008’s firefighter losses where nine states experienced five or more on-duty fatalities. The total number of fatalities in 2009 was one of the lowest totals in more than 30 years of record.

“Over the past ten years alone, the trend shows a 14 percent reduction in on-duty firefighter fatalities but we must continue every effort to be sure that when it comes to firefighter health and safety, everyone goes home,” SAID Acting United States Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines.

The unique and specific objective of Firefighter Fatalities in the United States is to identify all on-duty firefighter fatalities that occurred in the United States and its protectorates during the calendar year and to present in summary narrative form the circumstances surrounding each occurrence.

An overview of the 90 firefighters that died while on duty in 2009:

  • The total break down included 47 volunteer, 36 career and seven wildland agency firefighters.
  • There were six firefighter fatality incidents where two or more firefighters were killed, claiming a total of 13 firefighters’ lives.
  • 16 firefighters died in duties associated with wildland fires, compared to 26 such fatalities in 2008.
  • Activities related to emergency incidents resulted in the deaths of 57 firefighters.
  • 30 firefighters died while engaging in activities at the scene of a fire.
  • 15 firefighters died while responding to or returning from 13 emergency incidents in 2009. This compares to 24 responding/returning fatalities in 2008.
  • 10 firefighters died while they were engaged in training activities.
  • 14 firefighters died after the conclusion of their on-duty activity.

For 33 years, USFA has tracked the number of firefighter fatalities and conducted an annual analysis. Through the collection of information on the causes of firefighter deaths, the USFA is able to focus on specific problems and direct efforts toward finding solutions to reduce the number of firefighter fatalities in the future. This information also is used by many organizations to measure the effectiveness of their current efforts directed toward firefighter health and safety.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which worked closely with USFA on this report, also maintains a list of firefighters who die in the line of duty and are honored during the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend held each October in Emmitsburg, Md. Visit for more information about the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and their assistance to the families of the firefighters lost in 2009 and beyond.

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