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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Keep fatalities trending down

The NFPA report on 2011 firefighter fatalities is great news, but more hard work lies ahead

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel recommends we congratulate each other on reduced firefighter fatalities, then get to work making sure the downward trend continues.

Without question, the results of this report are good news for the fire and emergency services.

It's great to see the number of on-duty firefighter fatalities continue trending downward for another year. And, as mentioned in the story, it seems likely the industry-wide investment on safety, health and wellness is starting to pay dividends.

But we also know that we have a lot of work left to do.

We still have to remember that, while not included in these statistics, firefighters also face a (generally speaking) higher risk of chronic illness and disease. We also understand more than ever before how much critical incident stress and PTSD affect so many of our fellow responders — both on- and off-duty.

It's also unfortunate that, while we're definitely taking great strides forward, there are still those among us who think it's heroic to defy safety-related SOPs and best practices. Personally, I've come to believe that heroism lies in choosing to become a firefighter or emergency responder in the first place, not in taking unnecessary risks that place others in danger.

So, take a minute to congratulate your brother and sister firefighters on our progress; then let's all get back to making 2012 another record-setting (low) year.

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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