By Bill Carey
23 August 2022
Updated 24 August 2022 below.
“Is this number right?”
An online article on Fire Engineering about SLICE-RS states that a specific number of line of duty deaths occurred during structure fire operations. The article goes on to explain the acronym and its relationship to firefighter safety at structure fires. Readers have asked if the number in the article is correct.
13 line of duty deaths as of 18 April 2022.
In the list of references the article has a link to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) summary report for fatalities from 4 January to 15 April. The link to the actual report does not work because the time period for compiling the report no longer exists. USFA summary incident reports default to the latest updated, but even still one can see the number of fatalities in a specific range.
There are 38 fatalities total listed by the USFA as of 15 April. Not all of these are involved in firefighting, especially structure fires. Here are the number of interior structure fire deaths within the time period that is stated in the article:
Los Angeles, CA
St. Louis, MO
Baltimore, MD | 2 | 3
This total is five.
To give benefit of the doubt to the author and editors here are firefighter fatalities that occurred outside of a structure in the same time period:
Forestburgh, NY Heart attack during a mutual aid residential structure fire.
St. Paul, OR Killed in an explosion while operating on the exterior of a barn fire.
Combined with the interior deaths this only brings the total to seven, half of what is stated in the article. If we include non-traumatic fireground deaths, fires not involving structures and wildland-related fatalities the number totals 12. If those are intended to be part of the 13 then readers should know that this includes a dumpster fire, a brush fire, a grass fire and two wildfires.
So no, the number of 13 is not correct even when considering the main theme of the article, structure fires.
The author of the article and I spoke about the fatality number and we looked at how we came to our sums. The author utilized the USFA category “On-Scene Fire” which is very, very broad, and how he got the number of 13. He also noticed that since his article was written, the USFA had changed two fatalities in that category to “Responding.”
As stated before our fatality data from the USFA is very muddy. It also does not help when editors and reviewers do not get into proofing the specifics of material cited in articles before publishing.
Photograph courtesy of Unsplash.