NFPA: Firefighter Deaths in 2012 Second Lowest in 35 Years

The NFPA had some good news to report Tuesday morning -- on-duty firefighter deaths in 2012 were the second lowest in the past 35 years and the number of sudden cardiac deaths were the lowest on record. 

In 2012, 64 firefighters lost their lives compared to 61 in 2011.

This is the second consecutive year that the total has been below 65, according to the Firefighter Fatality Report released Tuesday morning at the NFPA's annual conference.

For the past four years, the annual total has been well below 100, dropping the annual average over the past 10 years to 88 deaths, the report showed.

The NFPA considers an on-duty firefighter as those at the scene, fire or non-fire incident (EMS); responding or returning from alarm; participating in any function such as fund-raising, education, training, maintentance. 

Their criteria is different from both the USFA and the NFFF.

The NFPA researchers also noted another favorable trend -- the number of volunteer firefighter -- 30 -- is the lowest reported. "...(It) maintains the general downward trend seen since 1999..."

"The number of on-duty deaths of volunteer firefighters in 2012 is approximately half the average number reported just 10 years ago. The trend for career firefighters has been relatively flat over the past 10 years, although the trend has been downward since 2009. This is the third consecutive year that the total for career firefighters has been 25 or lower," they noted.

The report also highlighted a number of findings:


  • Lowest number of sudden cardiac deaths
  • Lowest number of deaths at structure fires
  • Lowest number of volunteer firefighter deaths
  • Fourth consecutive year the total number of road vehicle crash deaths has been 10 or lower
  • Fifth consecutive year of decreasing on-duty cardiac-related deaths
The number of sudden cardiac deaths is the lowest since the NFPA started calculating records in 1977, and the fifth year showing a decline, the report showed.
"The number of deaths in this category has fallen significantly since the early years of this study. From 1977 through 1986, an average of 60 on-duty firefighters a year suffered sudden cardiac deaths (44.7 percent of the on-duty deaths during that period)...The average number of deaths fell to 44 a year in the 1990s and to 37 in the past decade.
In spite of this reduction, sudden cardiac death still accounted for 42 percent of the on-duty deaths in the last five years. Overall, sudden cardiac death is the number one cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities in the U.S. and almost always accounts for the largest share of deaths in any given year.
 The firefighters who died in 2012 ranged in age from 17 to 79, with a median age of 49 years, researchers noted adding that sudden cardiac death accounted for a higher proportion of the deaths among older personnel as might be expected.

Statistics also showed that almost 60 percent of the firefighters over age 40 and all over 60, died of heart attacks or other cardiac events. And, the youngest person who died from a cardiac issue was just 24.