As already eluded to by several others, we have recognized that a small percentage of firefighters killed in the line of duty were engaged in fire attack (interior and wildland) or other suppression operations. From 2005-2012, 384 or 48.5% of firefighters died due to heart attack or stress/overexertion. On the other hand, 95 or 12% died as a result of asphyxiation, burns, collapse or trauma. The current state of the fire service has a heavy emphasis on safety and why shouldn't it? Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job just as it is stated on the inside of your helmet. It has been a dangerous job and always will be.
With that being said the fire service has made amazing strides in the form of PPE, SCBA, apparatus, TICs, accountability, radios and the list goes on. My senior man personally described a fire scene 30 years ago that included 3/4 boots, heavier SCBA, riding the tailboard and the one radio that only the officer had. But where is the accountability when an average of 50% of our members die annually due to a cardiac related event. The trending topics today include exterior fire attack, survivability profiling and writing off vacants as being unsearchable. I don't necessarily disagree with those but its the manner in which most members take those topics as a must-do every fire and not as a tool for the toolbox. There are chiefs who speak of policies that don't exist stating "we don't search vacants." We have created a culture of fear in the latest generation of firefighters and ultimately future leaders. A generation of firefighters who place themselves first and must ask permission before they act. This has led to and will continue to lead to a firefighters who will not act when its blowing out of a couple windows with people trapped. Safety has been used a blanket term to cover all fireground operations.
There are those who have chosen to attack the few who still believe in civilians first. Those who believe in interior fire attack. Those who believe in taking a risk if there is a life to be saved whether it is a vacant or not. Anyone can and should reference http://firefighterrescues.com and http://www.backstepfirefighter.com/why-we-search/ to see that our members are making a difference everyday with little fanfare and also few fatalities. We as a fire service have done a fantastic job at reducing LODD's as its related to suppression operations. In contrast we have truly failed to address our #1 enemy; cardiac related deaths.
The onus should be placed on firefighter fitness and more cardiovascular testing. The IAFF as well as others have placed a large emphasis on firefighter fitness but we could go so much further. After 30 years we recognized that 3/4 boots, riding on the tailboard, one radio per crew and no accountability would not cut it in today's fire service. We need to recognize that 50% of our members dying due to a cardiac related event is no longer acceptable.
By Tailboard Training contributor Andrew Zysk