Twelve U.S. firefighters recently died in the line of duty. Four career firefighters, four volunteer firefighters and four contractors died in 12 separate incidents. One death was the result of direct fireground operations, four deaths resulted from accidents and seven deaths were health related.
FIREFIGHTER JOHN AUSTIN, 37, of the Quincy, MA, Fire Department died on July 8. Austin was preparing to leave the fire station in response to an emergency call when he became unresponsive. Fellow firefighters initiated immediate care and transported him by ambulance to Quincy Medical Center, where he died. Austin was an 11-year veteran of the department.
HEAVY EQUIPMENT OPERATOR DENNIS JAMES LONG, 65, of Clarkston, WA, working under contract for the Idaho Department of Lands, died on July 8. Long was operating a bulldozer cutting a fire line on the “Pardee Fire,” north of Kamiah, ID, when he suffered an apparent heart attack. Other workers performed CPR until EMS personnel arrived. Long was pronounced dead at the scene. The fire was caused by a lighting strike and covered more than 250 acres.
FIRE CHIEF MICKEY YATES, 47, of the Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department in Hickory, MS, died on July 6. Yates was responding to a traffic accident in his private vehicle when it collided with a Newton County sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle. Yates’ pickup truck overturned and he was ejected. The Mississippi Highway Patrol was investigating the accident. Yates was a 23-year veteran of the department.
ASSISTANT FIRE CHIEF RODNEY HARDEE, 66, of the Loris, SC, Fire Department died on July 9. On July 6, Hardee responded to a brushfire. After returning from the call, Hardee complained of not feeling well and went home. After failing to respond to another emergency call, his wife found him seriously ill and called 911. He was transported to Grand Strand Hospital in Myrtle Beach, where he died from a cerebrovascular accident. Hardee was a 40-year veteran of the department.
LIEUTENANT MATTHEW BLANKENSHIP, 38, of the Marshfield, MO, Fire Protection District died on July 20. On July 13, Blankenship suffered burns over 75% of his body after a flashover occurred in the basement of a two-story residential structure in Niangua. The flashover occurred approximately 30 minutes after the arrival of the fire department. He was transported to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where he died. Blankenship was member of the department for four years. This was the department’s first line-of-duty death.
FIREFIGHTER BRUCE SENENSIG, 20, of the Quentin, PA, Volunteer fire Company died on July 22. While responding to a motor vehicle accident at Routes 117 and 72, Senensig lost control of his personal vehicle, crossed the center line and was struck broadside by an oncoming vehicle. Senensig was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators believe poor weather conditions contributed to the accident on Route 322. Senensig was a member of the department for two years.
FIREFIGHTER DAVID BRIER, 50, of the Middleborough, MA, Fire Department died on July 22. On July 13, Brier complained of feeling ill while on duty. He returned home, where he suffered a heart attack. Brier was transported to Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston, where he remained on life support until he died. Brier was a 15-year veteran of the department.
WILDLAND CONTRACT FIREFIGHTER JOHN HAMMACK, 58, of R&K Water Services in Bonney Lake, WA, died on Aug. 1. Hammack was clearing trees on a wildfire in the Mount Washington Wilderness Area of Oregon near Dugout Lake when the top portion of a snag fell and struck him and another worker. He died at the scene and was recovered by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. The fire was started by a lightning strike.
WILDLAND CONTRACT FIREFIGHTER JESSE TRADER, 19, of County Fire & Security in Merlin, OR, died on Aug. 6. Trader was operating a water tender on Bear Camp Road, returning to the fire camp in Merlin when the vehicle struck an embankment and rolled over. He was transported for the scene by air ambulance. The “Big Windy Complex Fire” was started by dry lightning on July 26. This was Trader’s first year as a firefighter. The tender was owned by Ace Earthmoving and being used by County Fire.
WILDLAND CONTRACT FIREFIGHTER KEVIN HALL, 59, of Ontario, OR, died on Aug. 10. Hall was found unresponsive in a truck. Hall was supporting a crew working to improve fire lines at the “Grassy Mountain Fire.”
PUMP OPERATOR/ENGINEER JUAN PABLO CASANOVA, 53, of the Brownsville, TX, Fire Department died on Aug. 10. On July 16, Casanova suffered a heart attack while on duty. Casanova was a 19-year veteran of the department.
CAPTAIN/PARAMEDIC MATTHEW G. MCKNIGHT, 51, of the Los Angeles, CA, Fire Department died on Aug. 12. McKnight suffered a heart attack while on duty at the LAFD Metropolitan Fire Communications Center. Fellow firefighters initiated immediate care and transported him to a nearby medical center, where he died. McKnight was a 31-year veteran of the department.
—Jay K. Bradish