Deaths during fire attack, search, and ventilation
By Bill Carey
15 January 2022
Subject to change based on USFA, news, department, and investigation information.
2021 ended with 140 on-duty deaths, to date, eight of which occurred while the victims were either attacking a fire or searching for occupants. This number accounts for nearly six percent of the total on-duty deaths for that year. Two of the interior numbers are from a multiple fatality incident, a roof collapse that killed two Oklahoma firefighters. No firefighters were killed while venting the roof of a burning structure and no firefighters were killed in an abandoned structure. It has been over 10 years since a firefighter died due to a roof collapse  while performing ventilation. Prior to the 2022 on-duty death in St. Louis, the last time a firefighter died inside an abandoned building was in 2019 . No firefighters died inside a commercial structure in 2021.
Five firefighters out of the eight are listed with the activity type Advancing Hoselines. All died while working inside a residential structure, the single-family private dwelling type, not a rowhome, townhome or apartment building according to news coverage and department information available at this time. All but one were part of the first-due or first arriving company. The fifth was from a later arriving first alarm company.
Two of the five fell through the first floor and into the basement during their last fires. Two others were disoriented, or believed to have become disoriented, and the final one suffered severe burns.
Only one fatality in this activity type involved a fire where occupants were rescued.
Advancing Hoselines (excluding Wildland): 5
12 May 2021: New Haven, Connecticut
4 July 2021: Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
11 August 2021: Frederick County, Maryland
10 November 2021: Baxter Springs, Kansas
4 December 2021: Sterling, Illinois
Search and Rescue
Three fatalities involved the activity type Search and each one involved the rescue or attempted rescue of occupants. The two firefighters killed in Oklahoma were involved in the rescue of two occupants in a house fire when the roof collapsed killing everyone. The third death involved a fire in a assisted living facility and the victim is believed to have become disoriented and cut off by fire.
All of the victims under Search were part of a first due company.
Search and Rescue: 3
29 January 2021: Waynoka, Oklahoma (2)
23 March 2021: Spring Valley, New York
There were no on-duty deaths related to performing roof ventilation in 2021.
Being trapped by collapse was the leading cause of death for the majority of the victims and trauma, specifically for those killed while doing a search, was the leading nature of death. The number inside this year is up slightly from previous years. The total number of on-duty deaths is up considerably due to the coronavirus pandemic, more than double the total number in 2019.
2021: 8. 140 total
2020: 6. 102
2019: 7. 64
2018: 7. 86
2017: 1. 93
2016: 4. 92
2015: 8. 91
2014: 11. 97
2013: 23*. 109
2012: 5. 85
2011: 11. 87
* includes 9 from one incident in West, TX and 5 from one incident in Houston, TX.
According to the USFA, by news reports, a total of 2,264 civilian home fire deaths occurred in 2021 . Structure fire data from 2021 is not available. The number of residential structure fires rose between 2019 and 2020 by 18,000 according to National Fire Protection Association reports [4,5].
1. Todd Wesley Krodle, USFA
2. Kody Michael Vanfossan, USFA
3. Civilian Fatalities 2021, USFA
4. “Fire Loss in the United States During 2019”, NFPA
5. “Fire Loss in the United States During 2021”, NFPA