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Line-of-duty deaths: Is EVERYONE listening?

As we examine our October LODDs, one by painful one, we must pause to consider how to prevent similar circumstances at our own departments

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In the past 25 days, the fire service has seen a surge in the number of firefighter deaths and significant injuries reported in the line of duty. I am very sensitive to allowing time for families, crewmembers and departments to grieve and for patients to heal. I am also very sensitive to not allowing a surge of deaths and serious injuries to go unnoticed. These incidents have NOT occurred during widespread bad weather or times of unique circumstances, nor are they apparently related individually in any way.

While there are a few commonalities, each incident warrants its own analysis and should give pause for fire departments across the United States to evaluate how these incidents could apply in their own jurisdictions.

Here’s what we know: In the first 25 days of October, 10 firefighters and one firefighter candidate died while performing or immediately after performing fire department duties:

  • Structure firefighting – 2
  • Vehicle wreck – 4 (two of these in separate POV incidents)
  • Medical condition on duty – 3
  • Medical condition immediate after duty – 1
  • Medical condition pre-employment – 1

PLEASE take a moment to consider your policies, procedures and protocols related to each of these incidents. The calls don’t stop coming in, and our need to continue covering responses doesn’t stop. We don’t need a NIOSH report to take a breath, to take a few moments of reflection for our own safety. We must ensure that we’re examining what we know and taking all prudent steps to make sure we’re not next. EVERYONE needs to listen to what these deaths are telling us.

Oct. 25 and Oct. 19

Oct. 22

  • LODD: Firefighter Tony Hoffman, Ionia Volunteer Fire Department, Iowa
  • Circumstances: While responding, both units attempted to pass a slow-moving tractor. One of the units was reported as a UTV, converted for firefighting, while the other was some type of traditional firefighting unit. There are various reports of which vehicle hit which, however the lone occupant/driver of the UTV was thrown from the UTV and succumbed to their injuries.
  • Reflections: Any time two pieces of firefighting equipment crash into each other, there MUST be lessons to learn, not just problems to identify. Based on the details reported, that will most certainly be the case here.
  • Learn more: Iowa firefighter dies in collision between responding apparatus

Oct. 20

  • LODD: Firefighter Colin Reedy, West Whiteland Fire Company, Pennsylvania
  • Injured: Firefighter Emily Gindele
  • Circumstances: Responding in POV. The vehicle left the road during a heavy rain downpour. Both firefighters joined the company as volunteers within the past year.
  • Reflections: Fire departments MUST use this opportunity to examine the practice of response in privately owned vehicles. We MUST, again, look at the training provided to firefighters who may be expected to respond, whether in POVs or marked organizational vehicles.
  • Learn more: Pa. FF killed in crash en route to call, 1 FF injured

Oct. 19

  • LODD: Firefighter Cameron Craig, Abington Fire Department, Virginia
  • Injured: Driver hospitalized
  • Circumstances: The engine was responding to a fire scene, when the driver lost control of the vehicle, which left the road and ended up on it’s side down an embankment. Craig was a passenger in the vehicle.
  • Learn more: Va. firefighter killed, another injured in apparatus crash

Oct. 17

  • LODD: Chief Timothy “TJ” Johnson, Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department, Pennsylvania
  • Circumstances: Chief Johnson responded to an EMS call on Oct. 16, returned home and within 10 minutes became distressed and called 911 himself. He passed away at the hospital on Oct. 17.
  • Learn more: Pa. fire chief dies after responding to EMS call

Oct. 15

  • LODD: Firefighter Brody Hanna, Nettie Volunteer Fire Department, West Virginia
  • Circumstances: Responding in POV. This was a VERY complex and dynamic incident involving a felon stealing multiple vehicles, leaving multiple crash scenes, breaking into homes before ultimately being arrested by police – not before hitting Hanna’s vehicle head-on.
  • Reflections: While the details of this incident will likely be tied up in multiple law enforcement investigations, fire departments MUST examine POV response policies and ensure proper training and any needed certifications are provided.
  • Learn more: W.Va. man on violent crime spree kills volunteer firefighter

Oct. 5

Oct. 5

  • LODD: Captain Adam Wayne Hart, Hurlbert Field Fire and Emergency Services, Florida
  • Circumstances: Captain Adam Wayne Hart was found unresponsive on the floor inside his bunkroom during his 48-hour shift. CPR was immediately initiated. He was pronounced dead approximately one hour later. The cause of his death has yet to be determined.
  • Learn more: Fla. fire captain found unresponsive during 48-hr. shift

Oct. 4

Oct. 3

  • LODD (pre-hire): Alexander Griffin, FDNY
  • Circumstances: While participating in pre-hire physical testing, specifically the pre-hire run, the prospective hire experienced an undetermined medical condition and was pronounced dead.
  • Reflections: The FDNY commissioner stated the department is “looking at our process to make sure it is as safe as possible.” Fire departments should use this as an opportunity to examine their own processes to ensure all proper and prudent pre-employment checks are completed and processes are being followed.

Final thoughts

It’s important to note that nine of the 11 deaths detailed above are NOT related to structural firefighting actions. That said, this list represents the fourth and fifth deaths for the Baltimore Fire Department in a structure that appears to have been very similar to the January 2022 incident that took three firefighters’ lives. While the Baltimore fire will take on enhanced scrutiny as a repetitive occurrence, EVERY ONE of these incidents deserves the reflection and introspective look within ourselves.

Please don’t allow your thoughts and prayers to be the end of your consideration of these incidents. We MUST NOT allow any LODD to be a life lost in vain. Every one of these incidents will likely have lessons learned listed in a follow-up report or analysis. Even the medical causes deserve this analysis. Don’t allow “lessons learned” to be relegated to “problems identified” that simply lie on the shelf in a report. Is EVERYONE listening to what these LODDs are telling us?

Chief Marc S. Bashoor joined the Lexipol team in 2018, serving as the FireRescue1 and Fire Chief executive editor and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. With 40 years in emergency services, Chief Bashoor previously served as public safety director in Highlands County, Florida; as chief of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Fire/EMS Department; and as emergency manager in Mineral County, West Virginia. Chief Bashoor assisted the NFPA with fire service missions in Brazil and China, and has presented at many industry conferences and trade shows. He has contributed to several industry publications. He is a National Pro-board certified Fire Officer IV, Fire Instructor III and Fire Instructor. Connect with Chief Bashoor at on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do you have a leadership tip or incident you’d like to discuss? Send the chief an email.