Cardiac fatalities are the leading cause of death among all firefighters. Increasing age has been linked to increased cardiac fatalities in firefighters; however, circumstances surrounding in-line-of-duty cardiac firefighter deaths can also increase the risk of a cardiac death. The authors hypothesize that cardiac fatalities among firefighters will be related to the type of duty and level of physical exertion. The authors analyzed the Firefighter Fatalities and Statistics data collected by the U.S. Fire Administration (http://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/fatalityData/statistics) from January 2002 to December 2012. Data were analyzed for associations between age, firefighter classification, duty-type, and cause of fatal cardiac event. A total of 1153 firefighter fatalities occurred during the 10-year period reviewed. Of these, 47% were cardiac fatalities. Mean age was significantly higher in firefighters who suffered a cardiac fatality (52.0 ± 11.4 ± 40.8 ± 14.7 years*). Volunteer firefighters suffered significantly higher proportion of cardiac fatalities (62%*) followed by career firefighters (32%). Additionally, cardiac fatalities were the leading cause of death for volunteer firefighters (54%*). The highest proportion of cardiac fatalities occurred on-the-scene (29%*) followed by after-duty fatalities (25%). Stress and overexertion accounted for 98% of the cause of cardiac fatalities. Adjusting for rank and firefighter classification, age (odds ratio, 1.06; 95% confidence interval, 1.05–1.08) and stress or overexertion (odds ratio, 11.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.7–83.4) were independent predictors of a firefighter cardiac fatality (*P < .05). Both career and volunteer firefighters are at significantly higher risk of a fatal cardiac event as they age. These fatalities occur in a significant proportion on-the-scene. National efforts should be aimed at these high-risk populations to improve cardiovascular health.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine