On September 14, an "In Brief" item in the Lansing State Journal said Governor Snyder had requested that flags be lowered in honor of a fire official killed in the line of duty. According to the LSJ, he had been responding to an emergency call. The item cited a September 12 announcement by the Governor's Office.
The actual announcement said the 47-year-old died after responding to an emergency call and quoted the Governor as saying "Courageous first responders . . . risk their lives daily to protect our communities and state." Other media reports said he died of a heart attack at his home, and a report on the site of FEMA's U.S. Fire Administration said he died from an apparent heart attack at his residence approximately three hours after responding to a rescue/medical call.
I wondered if the Governor was wrong in declaring the death to be "on duty." Turns out, he was right. A report called Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2012 on the site of FEMA's U.S. Fire Administration says
This expanded definition of "on duty" became law when President George W. Bush signed the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefit Act of 2003.
The U.S. Fire Administration collects information on firefighter deaths in the United States and publishes an annual report. For this report, the United States includes
For the report, firefighter is defined as
With that broad definition of U.S. firefighter, how many fatalities would you guess there were in 2012? Over 10,000? Over 1,000? Over 100?
No. There were 81 (3 in Michigan), and only 45 were related to emergency activities. Thirty-six were related to non-emergency activities which include
Eight firefighters died in training, 4 of them from heart attack, 1 from stroke.
Twelve died after the conclusion of their on-duty activities, 10 of them from heart attack.
Fifteen of the 2012 deaths were related to wildland firefighting.
Firefighting is not even among the 10 deadliest jobs, according to Forbes magazine:
Car mechanic is not among the top 10, either. Here are the top 10:
So who really are the "heroes?"
The report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States in 2012 contains a lot more detail than I have given here, including detailed accounts of each firefighter death (Appendix A).
Send comments to email@example.com.