USFA: 2009 on-duty fatalities total among lowest on record

The annual USFA firefighter fatalities report listed 90 on-duty deaths; heart attacks remained the leading cause of death

By FireRescue1 Staff

EMMITSBURG, Md. — Heart attacks were still the leading cause of fatalities for firefighters on duty in 2009, which had fewer overall on-duty deaths than recent years.

The annual USFA firefighter fatalities report released Wednesday listed 90 on-duty deaths for the year, which the administration says is "one of the lowest totals in more than 30 years of record."

Stress/overexertion accounted for 50 of the deaths, including 39 deaths due to heart attacks.

The remaining on-duty deaths were split among various other causes like vehicle collisions, falls, and fatal injuries of other origins.

The report also showed:

  • 16 firefighters died in duties associated with wildland fires, compared to 26 such fatalities in 2008
  • 30 firefighters died while engaging in activities at the scene of a fire
  • 15 firefighters died while responding to or returning from 13 emergency incidents in 2009, which compares to 24 responding/returning fatalities in 2008
  • 10 firefighters died while they were engaged in training activities

The report points out that the death total matches the lowest on record when factoring out the Hometown Heroes Act of 2003, which counts firefighters who die as a result of a heart attack or stroke within 24 hours of duty-related activities.

"When not including these fatalities in a trend analysis, the 2009 total 77 firefighter fatalities equals the lowest number of firefighter losses on record (77 on-duty firefighter deaths occurring in 1992) over the past 33 years," the report said.

The USFA sees the low total as part of a greater overall trend in the decline of on-duty deaths.

"Over the past ten years alone, the trend shows a 14 percent reduction in on-duty firefighter fatalities but we must continue every effort to be sure that when it comes to firefighter health and safety, everyone goes home," Acting United States Fire Administrator Glenn Gaines said.

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