[cifnmedia] 110 FF deaths in 2003

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 14:36:53 -0800 (PST)

Date:  January 12, 2004

To:  LRI E-Mail Subscribers

Fr:  Gerry Dworkin
       E-Mail: admin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The following information is being shared with our e-mail subscribers.  
This information was taken from Firehouse.com and we thank them for 
accumulating this information so we can share with the numerous Public 
Safety and Rescue Personnel who participate in our training programs and
 who subscribe to this e-mail subscription list.

Interesting enough, please note there were no Line of Duty Deaths during
 2003 related to Drowning.


Firehouse.Com News
January 2004

The United States Fire Administration has announced that a total of 110 
firefighters died while on-duty in the United States in 2003, a higher 
number of fatalities than in most recent years. 

This number and statistics about the firefighters' deaths are 
provisional and subject to change as the USFA verifies data and prepares
 its annual fatality report to be released later this year. The USFA 
analyzes information about firefighter deaths each year to determine 
trends and make recommendations that may help reduce fatalities in the 

The USFA's current data shows that despite advances in training and 
technology, the number of firefighter deaths per year has actually gone 
up during recent years rather than down. Between 1993 and 2003 the 
average number of firefighter deaths per year, not including those 
killed in 2001 due to terrorism at the World Trade Center, was 98 deaths.
 However in 2000 there were 103 deaths, in 2001 there were 98 plus the 
346 World Trade Center Deaths, in 2002 there were 100 deaths and now in 
2003, there were 110 deaths. 

According to the USFA, 36 states and Guam saw at least one firefighter 
die last year. 

Firefighter Deaths Of The Last 10 Years 

*       1993 - 77 
*       1994 - 104 
*       1995 - 97 
*       1996 - 95 
*       1997 - 95 
*       1998 - 91 
*       1999 - 113 
*       2000 - 103 
*       2001 - 98 plus the 346 World Trade Center deaths, totaling 444 
*       2002 - 100 
*       2003 - 110 

Heart attacks were the top cause of death in 2003, claiming the lives of
 at least 42 firefighters, 38 percent of all firefighter deaths for the 
year. The victims ranged from age 35 to 81, with an average age of 52.7.

Heart attacks have been a top killer every year studied by the USFA 
although in 2001 they were dwarfed by the 346 firefighter deaths due to 
terrorism at the World Trade Center. There were 31 heart attacks in 2002,
 34 in 2001, 30 in 2000 and 54 in 1999. 

The majority of the other firefighters who died on duty in 2003 died of 
traumatic injuries from motor vehicle accidents, operations at structure
 fires, wildfires, training accidents, and falls. Sixty firefighters, or
 55 percent of all firefighters who died on duty on 2003, suffered 
injuries from these types of activities, most often motor vehicle 
accidents. Some of the year's highest profile tragedies involved motor 
vehicle accidents, including the crash that claimed eight Oregon 
firefighters on their way home from fighting a wildfire in South Fork, 
Idaho, and the drunk driving crash that killed 16-year-old Wyoming fire 
explorer Anndee Huber. 

There were nine firefighters who died as a result of traumatic injuries 
sustained at structure fires. Four of these deaths occurred during 
multiple fatality incidents. 

John Garman and Kenneth Jutte of the New Bremen German Township Fire 
Department in Ohio were hosing down dust in a lumber company silo in an 
effort to avoid an explosion. However an explosion did occur, killing 
them and injuring others. 

Also, Charles Zachary and Trent A Kirk of the Memphis, Tennessee Fire 
Department died from injuries they received when they became trapped 
inside of a burning Family Dollar store. 

There were seven deaths due to traumatic injuries sustained during 
operations at wildfires. 

One of the most well known wildfire tragedies occurred when Novato, 
California firefighter Steve Rucker died after he and two members of his
 crew were overrun by fire while operating at the Cedar fire in San 
Diego County. 

Two firefighters, Jeff Allen and Shane Heath of the U.S. Forest Service 
in Salmon, Idaho died during a multiple fatality wildfire incident when 
they were trapped by fast moving flames on the Cramer Fire. 

Another firefighter was seriously burned when he was overcome by fire 
progress during a prescribed burn project and he died from the injuries 
a month later. 

There were three deaths due to helicopter crashes while operating at 
wildfires. One helicopter pilot was killed when he crashed while 
fighting the McGinnis Flats fire in Washington. Also, firefighter 
Randall Bonito Jr. and pilot Jess Pearce were killed when their 
helicopter crashed while taking firefighters from the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs to begin an initial attack on a fire in the Aspen Ridge area of 

In addition to the helicopter crashes that occurred during wildfire 
operations, there were several helicopter crashes that occurred during 
non-emergency duties, resulting in the deaths of five firefighters. 

Pilot Richard Warren Black and David Craig Mackey of the Oregon 
Department of Forestry were killed when their helicopter crashed while 
they were scouting water holes for future forest fire suppression 

Pilot Carl Dolbeare and co-pilot John Attardo died when their air tanker
 crashed due to a cause still to be determined near Redlands, CA, during
 non-emergency duty. 

Charles Krenek of the Texas Forest Service died in a helicopter crash 
while he and his crew were doing an aerial search for Space Shuttle 
Columbia debris. 

After heart attacks, motor vehicle accidents were the single largest 
cause of death for firefighters in 2003, claiming 25 lives. These 
include accidents involving fire apparatus as well as firefighters' 
personal vehicles. 

The eight Oregon firefighters killed in a van crash on their way home 
from a wildfire in South Fork, Idaho comprised the largest multiple 
fatality incident of 2003. Conflicting results from several blood tests 
done on the driver have raised the question of whether alcohol was a 
factor in the crash. Charges of reckless endangerment and drunken 
driving were filed against the firefighter's employer, First Strike 
Environmental Co. 

Alcohol was confirmed to be a factor in the rollover crash that killed 
16-year-old Wyoming fire explorer Anndee Huber. Huber, a 10th grader at 
Newcastle High School, was ejected from the cab of a tanker and trapped 
underneath when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The firefighter 
at the wheel pleaded guilty in July to aggravated vehicular homicide. 

Another 16-year-old youth firefighter, Karlton Allen Cole Briscoe of the
 Hickory Flat Volunteer Fire Department in Mississippi, died after he 
crashed into a ravine while responding to an alarm in his private 

Another unusual motor vehicle accident occurred when firefighter Shane 
Brown of DeSoto Parish Fire District 8 in Louisiana was killed when he 
crossed railroad tracks in front of a freight train and was hit. 

Six firefighters were killed in 2003 after being struck by motor 
vehicles. Most of these deaths occurred while firefighters were working 
at incidents along the side of the road and were struck by passing 

One of these tragedies claimed Assistant Chief Don Billig of the St. 
Cloud Fire Department in Minnesota as he was replacing a barricade 
blocking a construction zone. A passing pickup truck struck his crew's 
truck and then struck Billig, killing him. The driver of the pickup left
 the scene on foot but then turned himself into law enforcement 
officials the next morning. 

A more unusual accident occurred when one firefighter was struck and 
killed by his department's apparatus. Barry D. Lutsy of the Racine 
Volunteer Fire Department in West Virginia was struck by the apparatus 
as it backed into a bay at the fire station after a call. 

There were two deaths due to traumatic injuries sustained during 
training exercises. 

Captain Wayne Dillon of the Washington Parish Fire District in Louisiana
 was participating in a driver training exercise when his tanker 

Firefighter Recruit Wayne Mitchell, 37, of Florida's Miami-Dade Fire 
Rescue was overcome by heat during simulated shipboard fire training at 
the Resolve Marine Fire School and died while in transit to the hospital.

Six firefighters died in 2003 from injuries sustained by falling. There 
were no reports in 2003 of firefighter deaths due to jumping. 

Melinda Ohler of the San Francisco Fire Department died from head 
injuries received after she fell out of the back of the open cab of the 
fire apparatus she was riding as it responded to what turned out to be a
 false alarm. 

In a somewhat similar incident, Jason Lee Ellis of the Loretto, 
Tennessee Fire Department was critically injured when he also suffered 
head injuries after falling from the back of a moving vehicle. Ellis 
fell out of a pick-up truck and hit his head on the road while traveling
 from the training grounds to the front of the campus at the Tennessee 
Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy. He died a week after the 

Other fatal falls occurred when two firefighters fell from ladders, 
another passed out due to a cardiac arrhythmia and struck his head on 
the pavement, and another suffered a head injury after falling from a 
lawnmower while cutting the department's lawn in the area of an incline.

There were no reports of firefighter deaths from drowning in 2003. 

Eight firefighters died of illnesses or undetermined causes while on 

One very notable case is that of Barry M. Bennett, 49, who died as a 
result of an on-duty exposure to Hepatitis C. The USFA reports that 
Bennett, a member of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Fire Department, was 
punctured by a needle while rendering assistance at a medical emergency 
on October 15, 1987. The exposure was reported immediately and Bennett 
began a course of medical treatment and observation. After testing 
positive for Hepatitis C he began a more aggressive form of treatment. 
Bennett was promoted to Lieutenant on September 18, 1998 and continued 
to work until early 2003 when he could no longer perform his duties, the
 USFA reported. Bennett received a new liver in May 2003 but succumbed 
to the illness on November 2, 2003. 

Most of the other deaths in this category are attributed to stress/exertion
 but have not been confirmed to be the result of a heart attack or other
 illness. These firefighters' activities at the time they died include 
hiking, directing traffic and exercising. 

Firefighter Mark Tyler Franklin of the Charlotte, North Carolina Fire 
Department suffered a knee injury at a structure fire in April 2003. He 
underwent knee surgery in October 2003 and died from a pulmonary 
embolism (blood clot) as a result of the surgery. 

According to the USFA, 20 firefighters died in seven multiple fatality 
incidents. The largest was the incident where eight Oregon firefighters 
were killed in a vehicle accident as they returned from fighting 
wildfires. In addition, two Memphis firefighters died while fighting a 
fire in a business in June; two Idaho firefighters were killed in July 
when a wildland fire spread quickly and trapped them; two firefighters 
died as a result of a helicopter crash in Arizona in July; two Ohio 
firefighters were killed in an explosion while operating at a silo fire 
in October; two Nevada-based firefighters were killed in an October 
airtanker crash in California; and two Oregon firefighters died in a 
helicopter crash in October. 

The youngest firefighters to die on duty in 2003 were 16-year-olds 
Anndee Huber and Karlton Allen Cole Briscoe, killed in motor vehicle 
accidents. In 2002 an even younger youth firefighter, 14-year-old 
Christopher Kangas, died when he was struck by a vehicle while 
responding on his bicycle to a fire incident. 

The oldest firefighter to die in 2003 was 81-year-old Wentzell Harding, 
who suffered a heart attack while en route to establish a traffic 
control point, causing his private vehicle to leave the roadway and 
collide into a tree. A police officer and two citizens pulled Wentzell 
from the burning vehicle but attempts at reviving him failed. 

Three women died in the line of duty in 2003; Mindy Ohler of the San 
Francisco Fire Department who suffered head injuries after falling from 
an open cab, Wyoming fire explorer Anndee Huber who died in a tanker 
rollover, and Dixie Steckelberg, 60, of Lovilia Fire and Rescue in Iowa,
 who suffered a heart attack. In 2002 six women died in the line of duty.

According to the USFA, full-time career firefighters comprised 30 deaths
 in 2003, 27 percent of the 110 deaths. Volunteer, seasonal and part-time
 firefighters accounted for 80 deaths, 73 percent of all firefighter 
deaths for 2003. 

Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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