The International Association of Fire Chiefs is calling for all fire departments across the U.S. to stand down from non-emergency duties on June 21 in order to focus on firefighter safety.
The IAFC noted that as of May 1, there have been 50 line-of-duty firefighter deaths this year - 10 more than at this time last year.
"It's a very bad year when we lose the number of firefighters we do anyway," said IAFC Executive Director Garry Briese. With this year's 10 percent increase, he said, "That's just simply unacceptable."
Briese said the IAFC had never organized a national stand down before, but when IAFC President Bob DiPoli suggested the idea to their Board of Directors, they agreed that it was time to do something drastically different.
"Firefighters are being killed at an alarming rate. The fire service simply cannot continue to do business as usual when so many of its own are dying," DiPoli said in a prepared statement. "We are conducting the stand down to raise awareness of the need for increased vigilance toward firefighter safety."
"We must call attention to the unacceptable number of line-of-duty deaths and injuries plaguing our fire departments," DiPoli continued. "During the Safety Stand Down, fire departments all around the nation will have thorough, honest conversations about firefighter health and safety and maybe we can do something to stop these deaths."
At least 14 additional organizations are partnering to support the effort, including the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the United States Fire Administration, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Volunteer Fire Council.
Briese said that by calling for the stand down at this time of the year, the fire service has six months left to to turn the trend of increasing fatalities around.
"The bottom line is people are tired of going to firefighter funerals," he said. "If we don't do anything, in the next ten years we're going to go to more than a thousand funerals. I'm not willing to look at it that way. I can't do nothing."
The IAFC asks that career or combination departments stand down beginning Tuesday, June 21 until all personnel and duty nights have been covered. They ask that volunteer departments conduct a special safety meeting the evening of June 21 or as near to that date as possible.
The IAFC has also recommended an activity schedule, which includes talking about the causes of line-of-duty deaths; checking all apparatus and equipment; discussing health and safety regulations; reviewing fire ground safety issues; and taking stock of training exercises and fitness goals.
"It'll be what the fire service wants it to be," Briese said. "What we've done is we've called for it, we've provided resources and it's up to the fire service to make it real or not real."
Resources for planning the stand down are available on the IAFC's web site at IAFC "Stand Down."