Ohio firefighter's death is a small step toward a safer fire service

The U.S. Fire Administration's classifying a Hep. C victim as a LODD 14 years after the incident is a step in the right direction for firefighter health and safety

The U.S. Fire Administration conferred line-of-duty-death status on Dayton, Ohio Firefighter Rick Halcomb. It was a small, barely noticed news item that came out of FireFighterCloseCalls this morning.

It's not a story that's going to set off sweeping change throughout the fire service. It's not a story that many in the fire service — outside Firefighter Halcomb's family, friends and fellow firefighters — will likely remember a few short weeks from now.

Yet, it is an important story.

It is an important story, because it gives us reason to look back on Firefighter Halcomb's accomplishments as a firefighter.

On June 6, 2000, Firefighter Halcomb responded to a vehicle crash with a trapped victim. The victim had Hepatitis C, which Halcomb contracted when he come into contact with the victim's blood.

After years of deteriorating health, he died March 21.

If you watch the attached video, you'll learn what a tremendous impact he had on his department after being diagnosed with Hep. C and some of his accomplishments prior. It's a testament to his commitment to firefighting and those he served with.

The second reason this story is important is that it represents another step in the right direction — a step toward acceptance that the long-term risks of firefighting are just as deadly as the immediate risks.

Yes, the strides we've made in recognizing the direct link between firefighter deaths and heart disease and are making with some forms of cancer are outstanding. They are great because they bring recognition and PSOBs to deserving survivors.

These strides are also great in that they bring us closer to fewer LODDs from cancer, heart attacks and illnesses like Hep. C. That's because the fire service will continue to develop procedures and equipment to protect firefighters against these long-term threats — just as it has for other widely accepted safety concerns.

The path toward better safety against long-term threats is going to be one built brick by brick. USFA's recent move is another brick, and a welcome one. 

About the author

Rick Markley is editor-in-chief of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, a volunteer firefighter and fire investigator. He serves on the board of directors of and is actively involved with the International Fire Relief Mission, a humanitarian aid organization that delivers unused fire and EMS equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's of fine arts. He has logged more than 15 years as an editor-in-chief and written numerous articles on firefighting. He can be reached at Rick.Markley@FireRescue1.com.

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