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USFA: 2013 on-duty firefighter deaths jump to 5-year high

Preliminary reports show 101 firefighters lost their lives on-duty last year


EMMITSBURG, Md. — Last year saw the highest recorded number of on-duty firefighter deaths since 2008. According to preliminary statistics compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration, there were 101 on-duty firefighter fatalities last year.

A full report is due out later this year.

The administration first started collating the figures in 1977. A total of 83 firefighter fatalities were recorded in both 2012 and 2011, 87 deaths in 2010, 93 in 2009 and a total of 118 in 2008.

This year’s total marks the first year of increase for on-duty deaths.

Being caught or trapped was the leading cause of firefighter deaths, accounting for 23.8 percent of fatal injuries. Stress and overexertion was the second-highest cause of fatal injury — 21.8 percent.

Trauma was the leading type of fatal injury this year, claiming 32.1 percent of the deaths. Heart attacks continue to be a concern, causing 19 percent of the fatal injuries.

Eight of the deaths were classified as Hometown Heroes, meaning the firefighters died of heart attacks or strokes within 24 hours after responding or training.

Volunteers accounted for 42 of the deaths, while 30 were career firefighters, 22 were paid full-time wildland firefighters, five were full-time contract wildland firefighters, one was a part-time wildland firefighter and one was a paid-on-call firefighter.

Most of the firefighters who died were older than 50 — 23 were between 51 and 60 years old. This year’s numbers also include 16 firefighter deaths between 31 and 40 years old.

Statistics for the type of duty associated with deaths are:

  • 49 On-scene fire
  • 13 After
  • 12 Other on-duty
  • 12 Responding
  • 8 On-scene non-fire
  • 4 Training
  • 3 Returning

The number of firefighter fatalities associated with the type of incident includes: 

  • 26 Wildland
  • 21 Structure fire
  • 19 Not incident-related
  • 14 Motor vehicle accident
  • 5 Outside fire
  • 5 Hazmat
  • 3 Other
  • 2 Emergency medical services
  • 2 Unknown
  • 1 False alarm

Multi-firefighter fatalities rose this year with the West Fertilizer Plant Co., Houston hotel fire and Yarnell Hill wildfire tragedies. A total of six firefighters died in the West fertilizer plant explosion, four in Houston's deadly hotel fire and 19 Hotshot firefighters died battling the Yarnell Hill fire.

The total of on-duty deaths could be revised in the following months as officials confirm reports from individual states.

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