We all know that firefighters and first responders risk their lives every day to protect their communities. In 2017, an estimated 58,835 firefighter injuries were reported according to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) annual report on firefighter injuries. As grateful citizens, when it comes to common injuries of first responders we should have a basic understanding of the types of injuries these brave public servants endure every day and the circumstances surrounding them.
Injuries at the fireground
Not surprisingly, the majority of injuries sustained by firefighters in 2017 was at the fireground. In total, 24,495 (42%) were injured at the fireground. The most common injury sustained by firefighters at the fireground were sprains and strains (48%). Other injuries sustained at the fireground include wounds, cuts and bruises (15%), smoke or gas inhalation (7%) and weather-related injuries such as frostbite (5%).
While most firefighter injuries are suffered at the scene of a fire emergency, a significant number of injuries are caused in vehicle collisions. In 2017, 15,430 collisions involving fire service vehicles were reported, which amounted to just over 1,000 reported injuries. As the NFPA study notes, the number of vehicle collisions is incredibly low when compared to the number of total firefighter calls for service (0.04%).
We often forget that firefighters face many other dangers that are not necessarily fire-related. According to the NFPA study, over 44,000 instances were documented of firefighters being exposed to hazardous materials such as asbestos, chemicals and fumes. These instances are perhaps the most dangerous for firefighters when it comes to their long-term health and risk for cancer. In addition to smoke and chemicals, firefighters also face the prospect of coming into contact with infectious diseases. In 2017, there were 7,345 exposures to infectious diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV.
We should never forget that firefighters face far more risks than just fire. Unfortunately, many local and state governments do not seem overly concerned about the risks firefighters face every day as reflected in the amount of funding they provide to fire departments.. As citizens, we should demand that our leaders get their priorities straight and properly fund our fire service personnel. No bottom line should be put ahead of society’s most important public servants. They risk far too much every day to be underprioritzed by government leaders.
The U.S. Fire Administration recently released its annual firefighter line of duty deaths report. The numbers cover line of duty deaths (lodd) from 2017. In total, 87 firefighters lost their lives while on duty in the year 2017, which was slightly lower than the 91 reported deaths in 2016. Learn more about the full report here.