Advancing Hoselines

Not what you read or think at first glance

By Bill Carey

Originally published 8 June 2015.

At first glance of the United States Fire Administration (USFA) firefighter fatality data you may see that nine firefighters have died while advancing hoselines this year [1]. What comes immediately to your mind? Were they caught in a flashover? Did they become trapped due to not recognizing signs of changing fire behavior?

Halfway through the year a look at the current on-duty death data shows a generality that needs more specifics before it can be properly understood or shared. As of 8 June, there are 39 firefighter fatalities listed by the USFA. In the brief overall breakdown of the data, nine of those fatalities are listed where the activity of the victim involved advancing hoselines (including wildfire). While the state of that category covers the general actions of the deceased around the approximate time at which their cause of death occurred, the exact details show a different picture.

Currently only three firefighters* have died while participating in direct firefighting operations (advancing hoselines, search and rescue, and ventilation at a structure fire) as I have written about previously to understand what the victims were actually doing at the time of the cause of their death. This does not include those who collapsed outside a structure or died sometime after the incident. That is not meant to lessen the loss but to provide greater detail and understanding to the data presented. Below are the nine fatalities currently listed by activity type “Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack”

*11 February, Lieutenant Randy Parker (Career)

Macon, Georgia

Age: 46

Caught in a floor collapse at a residential structure fire

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Burns

19 February, Captain Dwight W. Bazille (Career)

Houston, Texas

Age: 57

Fell ill while fighting a residential structure fire. Walked out under his own power, collapsed outside and went into cardiac arrest. The victim died two days later.

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Heart Attack

5 November 2014, Firefighter Edward Roddy (Volunteer)

Somerset, Pennsylvania

Age: 48

The victim suffered a heart attack while at the scene of a grass fire threatening a residential structure. He died on 22 February 2015

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Heart Attack

*9 March 2015, Firefighter Jeffery Scott Buck (Volunteer)

Clearfield, Pennsylvania

Age: 18

Caught in a porch collapse at a residential structure fire

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Crushed

*12 April 2015, Firefighter Steven Ackerman (Volunteer)

Valley Springs, South Dakota

Age: 38

Died of injuries sustained (cause and nature unknown) at a residential structure fire. Victim is believed to have been in a floor collapse or fell through a hole in the floor.

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Unknown

24 April 2015, Lieutenant Ricky Thurman (Career)

Swainsboro, Georgia

Age: 54

The victim suffered cardiac arrest while operating at a residential structure fire. He died 10 days later.

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Heart Attack

3 May 2015, Firefighter Christopher Michael Blankenship (Volunteer)

Jackson, Tennessee

Age: 41

Struck by falling tree while at the scene of a motor vehicle accident with fire

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Struck

4 May 2015, Firefighter Timothy Gunther (Career)

Poughkeepsie, New York

Age: 54

The victim experienced cardiac emergency symptoms while operating at a residential structure fire. He died the next day.

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lies/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Heart Attack

6 May, Lieutenant Kevin McRae (Career)

Washington, D.C.

Age: 44

Suffered a heart attack after exiting a residential structure fire

Activity Type: Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack

Nature of Death: Heart Attack

The breakdown of this data is as follows:

Average Age: 44

Oldest: 57 Youngest: 18

Career: 5 Volunteer: 4

Nature of Death

Burns: 1

Crushed: 1

Heart Attack: 5

Struck: 1

Unknown: 1

Deaths Occurring Inside a Burning Structure: 2

Only one of the nine died as a result of burn injuries. Heart attack was the nature of death for the majority of the victims. The average age of the heart attack victims was 51.

Summary

Of the nine fatalities currently listed as Advancing Hose Lines/Fire Attack, under Activity Type, only three were killed while operating inside or in very close proximity to a structure fire. Each was caught in some type of structural collapse. One died from burns, another from crush injuries. The cause and nature of death of the third is not yet reported. The others died outside of the structure and in some cases much later after the incident. Heart attack was the leading nature of death for the remaining fatalities.

The purpose of this is not to lessen any of the fatalities or to show unfair preference to a certain group. Instead it serves to remind us that we need aware beyond face value what our on-duty death statistics and yearly fatality reports tell us. It helps the educational efforts directed at lowering the yearly number of these fatalities when we understand the specifics of the data and how the fallen have died. Through this understanding, and improved dialogue, we can possibly improve the efforts in place to reduce our fatalities.

AdvancingHoselinesGraphic

References

1. United States Fire Administration “Summary Incident Report” 8 January 2015 to 1 June 2015

Photo courtesy of Bill Carey.

Published by Data Not Drama

Data Not Drama is writings that provide a point of critical thought about firefighter fatality data and education, line of duty deaths, and risk. The main focus is to encourage less risk aversion and better knowledge on the subject of firefighter fatalities in firefighters, fire departments, and fire service organizations.

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