QUINCY, Mass. — The National Fire Protection Association released its annual Firefighter Fatality Report. There were a total of 97 on-duty firefighter deaths in the U.S. in 2013.
The total represents a sharp increase over recent years due primarily to two disastrous incidents — the Yarnell Hill Fire that claimed the lives of 19 wildland firefighters and the explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. Plant that killed nine firefighters. For the past four years, the annual total ranged between 61 and 82 deaths.
Of the 97 firefighters who died while on duty in 2013, 41 were volunteer firefighters, 25 were career firefighters, 19 were members of a wildland firefighting crew, five were employees of federal land management agencies, three were federal contractors, two were state contractors, one was an employee of a state land management agency and one was a prison inmate.
Fifty-six deaths, which is the largest share of deaths last year, occurred while firefighters were operating on the fireground. This is the highest number of fireground deaths since 1999 — aside from the deaths at the World Trade Center in 2001. Half of them occurred among 10 wildland fires.
Due to the large number of fatalities in a single explosion in 2013, the leading nature of fatal injury was internal trauma and crashing, with 32 deaths. Sudden cardiac deaths were cited in 29 cases and burns killed 24.
The other major category of fatal injury was asphyxiation or smoke inhalation with eight deaths.
The firefighters who died in 2013 ranged in age from 19 to 76, with a median age of 40 years.
Statistics also showed that 17 firefighters died in vehicle-related incidents, including 10 firefighters who died in vehicle crashes. Six other firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles and one firefighter’s parachute failed to open during a proficiency jump.
Five of the nine killed in roadway wrecks were not wearing seat belts, according to the report. Six firefighters lost their lives after being hit by vehicles at incident scenes, seven were killed during training exercises and one firefighter committed suicide at a fire station.
This was the fifth consecutive year that the total has been lower than 100 deaths, but the 2013 death toll was far higher than in recent years.