USFA: 118 Firefighters Died on Duty in 2008 in the United States

Oct. 13, 2009
The United States Fire Administration (USFA) released the report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2008, which revealed that of the 118 firefighters who died on duty, 45 died of heart attacks, which continues to be the most frequent cause of death for firefighters.

"The causes of death among firefighters are well known and the steps necessary to protect firefighters have been studied and reported in numerous forums,” United States Fire Administrator Kelvin J. Cochran said. “We must take the necessary steps to ensure, as much as possible, all firefighters return from every call, safely.”

The USFA is the single public agency source of information for all on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States each year. The report continues a series of annual studies by the USFA of on-duty firefighter fatalities.

Firefighter Fatalities in the United States identifies all on-duty firefighter fatalities that occurred in the United States and its protectorates during the calendar year and provides circumstances surrounding each occurrence. An overview of the 118 firefighters that died while on duty in 2008 finds:

  • The total break down included 66 volunteer, 34 career and 18 wildland agency firefighters.
  • There were 5 firefighter fatality incidents where two or more firefighters were killed, claiming a total of 18 firefighters' lives.
  • 26 firefighters were killed during activities involving brush, grass or wildland firefighting, more than twice the number killed the previous year.
  • Activities related to emergency incidents resulted in the deaths of 75 firefighters.
  • 28 firefighters died while engaging in activities at the scene of a fire.
  • 21 firefighters died while responding to, and three while returning from, emergency incidents.
  • 12 firefighters died while they were engaged in training activities.
  • 13 firefighters died after the conclusion of their on-duty activity.

For 32 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, 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.

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