Question from a Reader

By Bill Carey
7 April 2022

“Is this correct or is it hype?”

The images below from the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Instagram and Twitter accounts were sent to me from several people. The general question was “Is this one of the deadliest years?” Others think that they way it was written was hyping or leveraging LODDs to get attention.

The LAFD statement is correct. It is also poorly written.

“With 30 line of duty deaths already, 2022 has started as one of the deadliest years in the fire service.” This is technically correct but the way it is written makes it seem as though all 30 line of duty deaths were traumatic deaths. Only five of them are. Six if you include a firefighter killed in an explosion while outside of the burning structure.

Here are the number of on-duty deaths for the same time period (6 – 7 April) for the last 10 years:
2021: 35
2020: 22
2019: 12
2018: 28
2017: 27
2016: 20
2015: 24
2014: 37
2013: 21
2012: 26

We can see that there are years where the total number by this point in April were higher than 30 so 2022 is one of the deadliest but not the deadliest. What makes 2022 unique for the reasoning of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s posts is that the first five interior deaths to date all occurred in January. In 2021 where there were more total deaths in the same time period but there were only two interior deaths in January. The total inside for the same larger period is three. 2014 had more total deaths in the same time period as well, but four interior deaths. These involved two multi-fatality incidents in Toledo and Boston.

So yes, 2022 has started as one of the deadliest years in the fire service, with five interior deaths in the first month.

However a post like this ignores that while we are still are counting on-duty deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which have significantly declined, the majority of on-duty deaths are related to stress/overexertion. Behind these are deaths due to crashes involving fire department apparatus.

In my opinion a better social media post that would not imply or be misunderstood as 30 firefighters killed while fighting fires would be,

“With a total of five firefighters trapped and killed inside burning buildings in January, 2022 is quickly becoming a deadly year in the fire service, which makes the IAFF Fire Ground Survival program even more critical.”

This leaves little doubt to the what the specific number is and relates better to the training shown, because we all should know that bailout training does very little to reduce deaths due to heart attacks, COVID-19, vehicle crashes, falls, and violence – which also occurred in the same time period.

Photograph courtesy of Unsplash.

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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