Firefighter Fatalities

J. Gordon Routley, Reade Bush and Jeffrey Stern recommend measures that help prevent line-of-duty deaths.


Over the past two decades, we have made tremendous progress in improving firefighter safety which has resulted in a downward trend in the number of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. The total number of deaths has been reduced from about 150 annually in the 1970s to around 120 in the 1980s to around...


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We can't count on someone to meet us at the front door of the fires where something is likely to go wrong, waving red flags and shouting, "This one is dangerous! Follow all of your safety procedures!" Our only answer is to be as safe as possible and to consistently follow all of the safety procedures all of the time.

We know how to work safely when we are thinking about working safely but we often focus on attacking the fire without thinking about how to do it safely. We need to incorporate safety into our standard approach to every situation and every task, so we don't have to think about it. We have to adjust the organizational culture if we still think that injuries come with the job and generous death benefits encourage maximum performance.

Part 2 will report on case histories of recent fatal fires.


J. Gordon Routley, Reade Bush and Jeffrey Stern are employed by TriData Corp., which contracts with the U.S. Fire Administration to conduct an annual analysis of line-of-duty deaths and to develop reports on individual major incidents. They are active members of fire departments in Prince George's, Arlington and Montgomery counties, respectively. The reports are available through the U.S. Fire Administration in Emmitsburg, MD.