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NFPA report breaks down 2023 firefighter LODDs

89 firefighters died on duty — an 8% decline over 2022 but the second-highest number since 2013

By Bill Carey

BOSTON — The NFPA has released its yearly firefighter line-of-duty death report for 2023, indicating that there were 89 on-duty firefighter fatalities last year — 50 volunteer firefighters and 30 career firefighters. The remaining nine non-municipal firefighter fatalities included five full-time state forestry rangers or technicians, one state forestry contractor, one full-time federal forest service firefighter, and two military firefighters.

The number of fatalities represent an 8% decline from 2022 but the second-highest since 2013 when 98 were reported. This increase largely reflects the inclusion of cardiac deaths, strokes or aneurysms occurring within 24 hours of duty, which were previously excluded unless symptoms appeared on duty, according to the NFPA press release. In 2023, the NFPA included cardiac deaths and strokes occurring within 24 hours of duty, assuming they were caused by on-duty activities, even without specific physical complaints.

The largest share of deaths, 32, occurred on the fireground, where firefighters were at fires or explosions. While this is lower than the late-1970s average of 80 per year, it is above the 10-year average and the highest since 2013, when 57 firefighters died in similar incidents.

“The fatalities due to rapid-fire progression and structural collapses may be at least partially because today’s fires burn hotter and faster,” said Jay Petrillo, an NFPA fire data analyst and report co-author. “Fortunately, within the fire service there is certainly recognition of the importance of improving knowledge about fire behavior and fire dynamics to better protect firefighter safety and health.”

Trauma injuries caused one-third of the deaths, with 18 from vehicle crashes, the highest since 2008. There were four multiple-fatality incidents in 2023, down from six in 2022, but still significant, with one incident killing three firefighters and three incidents each killing two.

As explained by Richard Campbell, NFPA senior research analyst and report co-author: “While the overall downward trend in the annual number of firefighter fatalities is an encouraging indication that injury prevention efforts through the years are having an impact, there is still a clear need for continuing attention to firefighter safety and health. Sudden cardiac deaths remain a critical concern, with the inclusion of deaths within 24 hours of duty bringing the issue into sharper focus.”

Download the full report below, and watch Chief Marc Bashoor’s analysis above.

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