The News of The Death of Firefighters

As a chief of a department receiving a phone call in the middle of the night about a fire apparatus accident is bad enough but waking to hear of a civilian fatality and injuries and a fatality of one of your own firefighters would be devastating. The news of firefighter fatality must be one of the worst feelings that they can have besides a loss of a family member. Speeding is one of the major factors in most fire apparatus accidents.

In most departments a CLD is not required and being able to negotiate obstacles is a task in itself. While on the road we must not only account for ourselves but all other drivers as well. In New York State there is a Due regard law. The NYS due regard law gives emergency services the permission to: Stop, stand or park where needed, go through a stop light or stop sign but only after clearing the intersection, may go above the posted speed limit, may go the wrong way of traffic.

However due regard does not relieve the operator from liability in the case of an accident if they were driving above their ability. “Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters. Firetruck crashes, occurring at a rate of approximately 30,000 crashes per year, have potentially dire consequences for the vehicle occupants and for the community if the firetruck was traveling to provide emergency services. Data from the United States Fire Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that firefighters neglect to buckle their seatbelts while traveling in a fire apparatus, thus putting themselves at a high risk for injuries if the truck crashes”.

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Adequate staffing is a must in the fire service. Having the correct amount of staffing on the apparatus is not only safer for us the firefighters but for the civilians as well. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and the NIST (National institute of standards and Technology) say that for an engine company to be the most efficient that they must have at least 4 firefighters on the apparatus. Many departments use the 2 in 2 out rule for firefighter safety but reducing the number of firefighters makes that rule almost impassable to follow. “Conducted by a broad coalition in the scientific, firefighting and public safety communities, the study results found that four-person firefighting crews were able to complete 22 essential firefighting and rescue tasks in a typical residential structure 30 percent faster than two-person crews and 25 percent faster than three-person crews.”

The departments equipment must always be in tip top shape, if a vehicle is out of commission it may be a cause of concern if there is an emergency. If a vehicle is involved in an accident not only is the vehicle out of service but the crew inside may be injured or killed. Some smaller departments may only have 1 piece of apparatus in their stations, if that apparatus breaks down or is in an accident it effectively puts the whole department out of service. There are programs in place to help decrease the number of emergency vehicle accidents, such as Emergency vehicle operations courses and mandated seatbelt use by all members while the apparatus is in motion. In the fire service Standard operating procedures or SOP’s are sometimes seen as a burden to the firefighters, but the SOP’s have been put in place to help protect the firefighters. SOP’s help firefighters make quick decisions on the fireground.

Emergency scenes can be very hectic. Officers must keep a calm cool head during all situations. If all the crews are working together and following the same procedures it will make the operation run as smooth as it can. It is the responsibility of all members to know and follow the policies and procedures of the department. “Firefighting policy should spell out the performance and physical standards for each member. Making sure firefighters are healthy and physically fit is a proactive way improve firefighter safety. And having standards in writing helps ensure that every staff member is able to do their job effectively. Department SOPs should also include specific standards for operations. Formal, written standards provide the foundation for operational safety. They also help the department meet accreditation and state standards for operations and firefighter safety.” The fire chief is ultimately responsible for making sure SOP’S are followed by all under their command.

As an officer in the department it is the obligation to over see the training of the men and women under your command. Fire officers are in most cases are the ones to oversee training of the members, the department is only as good as their leadership and their weakest link, it is essential that all members train to the best of their abilities. Training never really ends for fire and EMS personnel. New and better work practices are always being rolled out through continued education. Continuing education can be done by in house classes, home bases CME’s and collage level classes. The lives of the population and their firefighting partners lives may depend on it. The crews need to be aware of changing fire conditions inside of a structure as well and keep their heads on a swivel for hazardous conditions on roadways, hazmat calls and EMS calls.

When a firefighter dies in the line of duty it doesn’t just affect their family members but all their fellow firefighters as well. A firefighter line of duty death has got to be one of the hardest things a fellow firefighter has to go through. After the loss of a fellow brother or sister the firefighters must try to start to grasp the loss. The department needs to immediately start an investigation as to why the loss happened. If others are injured in the incident the department must give the firefighter or firefighters, the treatment necessary by the use of workers compensation or other programs. In 2019 there were 12 vehicular fatalities of the total 128 Line of duty deaths. Within the 1st 24 hours of the incident the department chief or appointee must notify the family, Notify the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation via the 24-hour line-of-duty death hotline, public administrators, and or the fire chief of the loss if he or she is out of town.

A critical incident stress management debriefing must be offered to all firefighter affected by the loss as soon as possible, The department may need to set up mutual aid to give the firefighters the time that they need to grieve, and all flags will be placed at half-staff. 24 hours after the incident the department officials would assist the family with any funeral arrangements, notify all members of the loss that were not part of the original call, and keep close tabs on department members coping with the loss. On the day of the funeral if requested by the family join the funeral procession standing side by side with the family of the fallen firefighter to show solidarity to the family.

Thankfully most of us will never have to experience a true line of duty death of a member of our department. “The key to managing a line-of-duty death is similar to handling a fire ground incident – control the situation; communicate effectively; and ensure the cooperation of all involved parties. Pre-planning is the foundation. It allows us to establish a system or procedures to follow that will ensure that the proper steps are taken to handle the incident, media, investigation, funeral services, and the family’s desires and support it needs.”


  1. [bookmark: R438998758217593I0]Donoughe, K., Whitestone, J., & Gabler, H. C. (2012). Analysis of Firetruck Crashes and Associated Firefighter Injuries in the United States. Retrieved from
  2. [bookmark: R438999168981481I0]Marin Fire Engines Don’t Have Enough Firefighters. (). Retrieved from
  3. [bookmark: R439006598726852I0]Role of Policies in Firefighter Safety. (2018). Retrieved from
  4. [bookmark: R439008248842593I0]Taking Care of Our Own. (). Retrieved from

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The News of The Death of Firefighters. (2021, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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