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Firefighter fatalities in the United States

Report: NFPA's "Firefighter Fatalities in the United States - 2017"
Rita F. Fahy, Paul R. LeBlanc and Joseph L. Molis
Issued: June 2018

Firefighting is a dangerous profession, and a growing body of research and data show the contributions that job-related exposures have in chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, and in behavioral health issues that may end in suicide. These deaths and injuries are in addition to the incident-specific deaths and injuries that occur while on-duty. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently undertook two large studies focused on firefighter cancer and concluded that firefighters face a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses, and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the general population in the U.S. NIOSH has also reported on the risk to firefighters of cardiovascular conditions. Firefighter suicides are tracked by the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance.  

NFPA’s own work in this area focuses on the deaths and injuries of firefighters that are due to specific events while on-duty.

Report highlights

  • The 60 on-duty firefighter deaths in 2017 represents the lowest total ever reported for this study. There have now been fewer than 70 deaths a year in six of the past seven years.
  • The number of deaths at the scene of fires continued far lower than usual – 17 deaths, only two more than reported in 2016, with nine at structure fires and eight at wildland fires.
  • Deaths among career and volunteer firefighters continued low in 2017, with both at the second lowest level since 1977.
  • Sudden cardiac death accounted for nearly half of the fatalities (29 deaths).
  • An unusually high number of firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles in 2017 (10 deaths).
Related reports
Related tables

Firefighter deaths by type of duty - 2017

Older versions of the report
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