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National Fire Protection Association
1 Batterymarch Park
P.O. Box 9101
Quincy, MA 02269-9101

Including Wildland Fire Management BRIEFINGS and NWCG Notes

Sponsored by:

Bureau of Land Management,
Bureau of Indian Affairs,
Fish & Wildlife Service,
National Park Service

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Firefighter Fatalities in the United States -- 2002
Excerpted from a report compiled by Paul R. LeBlanc and Rita F. Fahy

Each year, NFPA collects data on all firefighter fatalities in the U.S. that resulted from injuries or illnesses that occurred while the victims were on-duty. The victims include, besides members of local career and volunteer fire departments, those seasonal and full-time employees of state and federal agencies who have fire suppression responsibilities as part of their job description, prison inmates serving on firefighting crews, military personnel performing assigned fire suppression activities, civilian firefighters working at military installations and members of industrial fire brigades.

In 2002, a total of 97 on-duty firefighter deaths occurred in the U.S. This compares to the 440 firefighter fatalities that occurred in 2001 (340 at the World Trade Center on September 11 and 100 elsewhere in the U.S.).

While, in 2001, the U.S. fire service experienced its most catastrophic year, in terms of on-duty firefighter fatalities, in 2002, the death toll fell back to the level experienced over the past decade. At 97, the total number of on-duty deaths was slightly below the most recent five-year average of approximately 100 deaths per year.

In 2002, many areas across the U.S. experienced one of the worst wildland fire seasons in recent years, and unfortunately, as a result, it was a particularly bad year for wildland firefighter fatalities. A total of 22 firefighters died while working at or responding to wildland fires or at a controlled burn. Three of the five largest loss-of-life incidents involved wildland firefighter fatalities.

There were a couple of positive findings in 2002. No career firefighters died while responding to or returning from emergencies, and there were fewer than the average number of deaths involving volunteer firefighters responding in private vehicles. One year does not indicate a trend, but it's a positive finding that we hope will continue.

But many of the same problems continue to exist, particularly the large number of firefighters who died of heart attacks. Again in 2002, heart attacks were the leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths, and we continue to find that most victims for whom medical documentation was available had pre-existing health problems.

The frequency of these fatalities and other fire ground and training deaths can be reduced by adopting and adhering to a comprehensive safety and health program designed using NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, and its companion standards, and NFPA 1403, Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions. NFPA 1582, Standard on Medical Requirements for Fire Fighters and Information for Fire Department Physicians, lists the medical conditions that prevent an individual from serving effectively and safely as a firefighter and so preclude individuals from working as suppression firefighters. Attention to fitness and health throughout every firefighter's years of service is essential.

Credits: The study was made possible by the cooperation and assistance of the United States fire service, the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program of the Department of Justice, the United States Fire Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The authors would also like to thank Stephen N. Foley and Carl E. Peterson of the Public Fire Protection Division for their assistance on the study.
"Fittest Firewoman" Offers Tips on Maintaining Health & Fitness

A recent issue of Outside magazine featured a story on Juliet Draper, who the publication billed as the "fittest firewoman alive."

Draper, who is a firefighter and paramedic in Colorado trains members of Team Firejock for competition in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. In an interview with WN&N, Draper offered her viewpoints on staying fit.
WN&N: How do you define being fit?
Fitness is gaining and maintaining the capacity to do the job whenever and wherever it happens. There are several components to fitness: muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular strength and endurance, flexibility, nutrition, adaptability, and work capacity, to name a few.

WN&N: What are the obstacles to fitness that firefighters face?
Firefighters typically face the same obstacles as the rest of America: "Not enough time," "I'm tired after work," "But I don't like veggies!" The list is endless. Consequently, the same things that kill most people are the same things that shorten our lives. The number one is heart disease…You know, heart attacks are the number one killer of firefighters. They're usually caused by a combination of genetics, lack of exercise, improper nutrition, and poor stress management. My doctor once told me that if people quit smoking, ate right, and exercised, 80 percent of her business would be gone! While there's little we can do about genetics, we can stay healthy longer if we tackle the things we can do something about.

WN&N: How can firefighters gain and maintain fitness?
Lifestyle changes are what I recommend to gain and maintain firefighter fitness. Lifestyle changes happen a little at a time. Trying to change too many habits at once is a prescription for failure. We believe in achieving functional fitness 21 days at a time. Make one change and then add something new every 21 days. For example, start an exercise program today. Twenty-one days later, bring your water intake up to 8 to 10 glasses per day. Twenty-one days later, add three cups of vegetables to your daily routine. Whenever you add something, something else falls away. And it's important to remember that it's a lifetime program. So, take it slow and make it stick.

WN&N: What's the best way to maintain fitness and health with a limited schedule?
The best ways to maintain fitness and health with a limited schedule is to prioritize the areas that need the most improvement. If your cardio is weak, focus on the cardio in a job specific manner. For wildlanders that means throwing on a weighted vest or backpack, grabbing your Pulaski, and going for a hike. And remember, start 'slow and low' and build gradually.

WN&N: What role does nutrition play in fitness?
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of fitness, if not the most important. Food is what fuels the machine. It's important to get plenty of water, fruits and vegetables and to limit refined foods and sugars. We adhere to a high protein, low carbohydrate way of life, getting most of our carbs from fruits and leafy green vegetables, and we schedule our favorite treats monthly. For example, we love Red Robin burgers and have one every six weeks.

WN&N: How important are strength and endurance when training?
Strength and endurance are equally important and they are complementary. In order to be a well-rounded and capable firefighter you must have both. Circuit training is an excellent and efficient way to develop both these areas of fitness, and it provides the muscular and cardiovascular endurance wildlanders need.

WN&N: What are good methods for stress relief?
For stress relief I recommend something fun. Play your favorite sport, take a long walk or hike in nature, or take yoga classes. Whatever you do, take deep breaths throughout the day. In addition to exercise, add fishing, hunting, long baths, reading, movies or any enjoyable activity - even doing nothing.

To learn more about Juliet Draper and her Firejock training program, check out her website at

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