USFA reports 81 firefighter fatalities in 2012

It was the lowest year on record for heart-attack deaths and no firefighters died from becoming lost in a structure


WASHINGTON — In it's annual report on firefighter fatalities, the U.S. Fire Administration examined the cause and demographic breakdowns of the 81 on-duty fatalities in 2012. That total is both a decrease of two from 2011 and represented an all-time low in heart-attack deaths.  

USFA uses this information to measure the effectiveness of current programs directed toward firefighter health and safety.

The report showed that only one of the firefighters who died on duty was a female. By occupation, the fatalities broke down like this:

  • 28 career firefighters
  • 42 volunteer
  • 11 part-time or full-time members of wildland or wildland contract fire agencies

As a result of incidents that happened last year, 45 firefighters died from stress or overexertion — 39 due to heart attacks, three due to CVA, two from heat exhaustion and one from an aneurysm.

Heart attacks in 2012, the leading cause of firefighter fatalities, was the lowest year on record. There were 29 heart attack related deaths when not including Hometown Heroes. This is below the 20-year average of 40 per year.

Eighteen firefighters died as a result of 14 vehicle crashes, six involving personal vehicles, six involving an apparatus and six from two separate incidents involving aircraft.

For the second year in a row, no firefighters died by becoming lost or disoriented inside of a burning structure. However, one firefighter was killed when he became trapped inside a 2 1/2-story wood-frame house when the fire overcame his position.

Four firefighters died as a result of structural collapses in three separate incidents and seven firefighters died as a result of being struck by an object. One firefighter died as the result of a fall and four firefighters died of a cause not categorized.

The report shows that younger firefighters were more likely to have died as a result of a traumatic injury, such as from an apparatus accident or becoming caught or trapped during firefighting operations, and firefighters 46 to 50 were more likely to have died of stress or overexertion.

The highest number of firefighter deaths, based on the location of the organization, occurred in North Carolina and Pennsylvania with nine deaths each. New York and Texas had the next highest totals with six firefighters each.

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