What Is Killing America's Firefighters?

Each year heart attacks take the lives of more firefighters than all of the other line of duty deaths, and hundreds more are forced into early retirement.


Everybody goes! Phone alarm both companies 1st due, report of a fire in a multiple dwelling. Fire's in apartment 4B, on the fourth floor.

Whether you are the chief officer or a firefighter, we all start our size-up: time of day, weather, type of occupancy, and resources responding. These questions we ask all pertain to our safety responding to and operating at the fire scene. Anyone who has ever responded to a report of a fire knows that there is another process that is going on, one that we don't think about every time we respond.

Manhattan to Engine 58, report of people trapped fourth floor.

As we get more information we focus even more on the task at hand. How many people, what apartment, are there others? The situation becomes more intense. We now know there could be a job. You can feel your heart beat with a purpose.

Manhattan to Engine 58, we're getting numerous calls, looks like you're going to work!

When we hear those words from the dispatcher we have a good idea that this could be a job. Our thoughts clear and we concentrate on the task at hand without anything distracting us. The situation is vital. Our hearts begin to beat immensely. We focus our thoughts on all our training and drills that we have done to prepare ourselves for this very call. Backdraft, flashover, collapse, burns? We suddenly remember everything every instructor ever taught us. Otherwise, we are regretting not paying close enough attention. As we turn into the block we see smoke and fire blowing out the windows.

Engine 58 to Manhattan, 10-75 the box. Fire in a multiple dwelling, fire is on the fourth floor.

It's confirmed, you run to the back step and grab the nozzle you start the stretch. As you snake the line down the street you think about what you are going to do. Don't let the line get hung up on anything. Is there a well, rope stretch? Can we snake it? As we enter the building you can feel you chest pounding.

Ladder 26 to Engine 58, we need a line up here. We've got two 10-45's (code for unconscious civilians) with reports of children trapped.

You know now you have to make that apartment no matter what it takes. You start to think of those kids as your own. As you carry that line up the stairs you feel your chest begin to tighten, as you move up each step you fight the need to stop for a second and catch your breath. The officer is calling for the line but your not there yet.

58 to 58 chauffeur we have fire on the fourth and fifth floors with people trapped order a second alarm.

You make it to the fire floor. You now see for yourself what you are up against. Remembering your size up, thinking about the apartment layout, you crack the nozzle. Now the pain in your chest is radiating to your left jaw and down your arm. It doesn't really hurt, its just there.

Ladder 26 to Engine 58, the fire's coming down the hall to the left. Looks like a colliers mansion. We're right behind you.

You take one last breath. As the door opens the fire begins to roll out into the hallway. As you hit the fire and move in, the pain in your chest gets tighter and breathe shorter. The heat and smoke increase as you knock down each room. Reaching the back room is your goal and your heart is now maxed out. As you knock down the last room you hear the boss on the radio.

Engine 58 to Battalion 12, the fire is knocked down on the fourth floor, trucks are opening up.

As you hear those words, the boss tells you to go down and take a blow. Your thoughts become focused on yourself and the pain becomes more intense. As you reach the street you become concerned as you realize this could be a heart attack. The rest of your company becomes concerned and summons a paramedic to take a look. As they work to rush you to the emergency room, it's confirmed you are having a heart attack.

Engine 58 to Division3, EMS is transporting one of my members in critical condition to the hospital. My nozzle man is having a heart attack.

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