Six out of eight, out of eighty-seven
By Bill Carey
Originally published 3 August 2015.
A total of 87 on-duty deaths  were recorded in 2014 by the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Of those 87, eight we listed under the Activity Type “Advancing Hoselines/Fire Attack (Includes Wildland).” Here is a more detailed breakdown of those numbers.
Eight members of the fire service died while reportedly working with a hoseline. The average age of the victims was 44. The oldest victim was 57 and the youngest was 36. Five were career personnel and three were volunteers. The leading cause of death for the year:
Caught or Trapped: 3 (Boston: 2) (Philadelphia: 1) The two in Boston are a multiple-fatality event.
Stress/Overexertion: 2 (Liberty, MS and Union Beach, NJ)
Collapse: 1 (New Carlisle, IN)
Lost: 1 (Houston, TX)
Unknown: 1 (Hartford, CT)
Nature of death in this category:
Asphyxiation: 4 (Boston: 2) (Houston: 1) (Philadelphia: 1)
Heart Attack: 2 (Liberty, MS: 1) (Union Beach, NJ: 1)
Trauma: 1 (New Carlisle, IN)
Unknown: 1 (Hartford, CT)
In the Boston [2,3] and Philadelphia  incidents (Caught or Trapped), both victims were from the first-arriving companies (The victim from Hartford, CT was also part of the first-arriving company) . Each involved a basement fire with extension to the floors above upon arrival and occupants still inside, in the process of self-evacuating or being rescued. The Indiana incident  (Collapse) involved the roof collapse of a commercial structure used by a septic and excavation company for storage .
The age of the heart attack victims are 57 (Liberty, MS) and 54 (Union Beach, NJ). The victim in Mississippi  was operating at a grass fire with a threatened exposure. While assisting the due fire department (not his own) he was found unresponsive and not breathing on the top of an engine’s hosebed. It was concluded that the stress of the activity combined with hypertensive heart disease led to sudden cardiac death for this victim .
The Unknowns  (Hartford, CT) remain so, but the local news has reported the victim’s cause of death as asphyxia, and attribute it to a lack or air in his SCBA, according the the city’s chief medical examiner . Coupled with the additional details following this incident, which include OSHA violations and strife within the department , published details are still vague as to what happened to the victim. All that has been released to date is that he was discovered missing after companies were withdrawn from the structure following an event that triggered a bailout.
The Lost victim in Houston  is odd, as far as reporting goes. News of the incident, which includes statements from fire department personnel, say the victim’s crew were with him when he collapsed. The union president at the time said radio contact with the victim was lost and the RIT was sent to locate him . The state fire marshal’s office has not released a report as of this time.
Fatalities by Structure Type:
- Multi-family: 3
- Brownstone, four-story: 2 (multiple fatality incident), Boston MA – occupied
- “Ordinary” two-story duplex: 1, Hartford CT – occupied
- Single-family: 2
- Unattached, two-story: 1, Houston, TX – unoccupied
- Row-frame, two-story, middle unit: 1, Philadelphia PA – occupied
- Production facility: 1, Union Beach NJ (collapsed outside) – unoccupied
- Storage facility: 1, Middlebrook IN (victim and another firefighter reportedly ran a hoseline inside for a master stream to be used to cool acetylene tanks and other material inside the fire structure.) – unoccupied
Death Involving Structure Collapse
1: Middlebrook, IN: roof collapse
Incidents Involving a Change in Fireground Tactics Prior to Death:
1. Philadelphia, PA. Initial crew (victim’s crew) reportedly encountered heavy heat and smoke in the basement. The incident commander, according to the fire commissioner, changed tactics and called for crew to withdraw. Victim became separated from crew.
Date and Times:
Mississippi: Saturday, 1230 hrs. (grass fire)
Massachusetts: Wednesday, 1450 hrs. (residential structure)
New Jersey: Sunday, 1800 hrs. (commercial structure)
Texas: Wednesday, 1553 hrs. (residential structure)
Indiana: Tuesday, 2100 hrs. (commercial structure)
Connecticut: Tuesday, 1830 hrs. (residential structure)
Pennsylvania: Tuesday, 0249 hrs. (residential structure)
Nature of Death
Caught or Trapped: 3
Cause of Death
Heart Attack: 2
Fatalities with a Completed LODD Investigation Report
1: Fire Fighter Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death While Working at a Grass Fire – Mississippi
Contradictions and Summary
Of the 87 on-duty deaths in 2014, eight are recorded as having died while “Advancing Hoselines.” Of those, six died while inside a burning structure. The two excluded in this writing are the one from Mississippi (victim suffered a heart attack and collapsed while up on a hosebed) and New Jersey (victim suffered a heart attack and collapsed outside the structure). Of the six who died inside a structure, five were inside a residential structure and one was inside a commercial structure. Building collapse only claimed one victim in this activity type, the roof collapse of a commercial structure in Indiana.
None of the victims had a cause of death attributed to burns.
1. Firefighter Fatalities in 2014, United States Fire Administration
2. Michael R. Kennedy, Boston Fire Department, March 26, 2014 USFA
3. Edward J. Walsh, Boston Fire Department, March 26, 2014 USFA
4. Joyce M. Craig-Lewis, Philadelphia Fire Department, December 9, 2014 USFA
5. Jamie Middlebrook, New Carlisle Fire Department, August 5, 2014, USFA
6. “Indiana Assistant Chief Killed in Collapse, Another Firefighter Injured” FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com August 6, 2014
7. Dwight Hilton, East Central Volunteer Fire Department, February 1, 2014, USFA
8. “Fire Fighter Suffers Sudden Cardiac Death While Working at a Grass Fire – Mississippi” NIOSH, August 2014
9. Kevin L. Bell, Hartford Fire Department, October 7, 2014, USFA
10. “Hartford Firefighter Kevin Bellâ€™s tank ran out of air: Medical Examiner” FOXCT, February 26, 2015
11. “Task force: Hartford firefighters not being trained properly” Jason Newton, WTNH June 22, 2015
12. Daniel D. Groover, Houston Fire Department, July 9, 2014, USFA
13. “Firefighter dies in house blaze” James Pinkerton, Anita Hassa, Cindy George, Houston Chronicle, July 19, 2014
Photo courtesy of Bill Carey.