The number of on-duty firefighter deaths across the country is at a 40-year low.
Sixty firefighters died on-the-job last year.
Flames or collapsing buildings were not the most common cause of deaths.
The leading cause of deaths among firefighters was heart attacks
The National Fire Protection Association just released its annual fatalities report. Of the 60 fatalities, about half were classified as sudden cardiac deaths.
“You’re all of the sudden required to jump into action. It’s hard on anybody’s cardiac system,” said Chief Michael Hall from Berryhill Fire Department.
Berryhill Fire Department, which has never lost a firefighter on duty, built a station that reduces some of the common stressors firefighters face.
Hall says his department worked with an architect for more than a year to design a low-stress station, like installing a slide instead of a pole.
“This is better on knees, and backs, and necks and nobody falls two stories,” he said.
They also have a smart screen designed to be easier on the eyes, especially when rushing out of bed in the middle of the night. The screen will show different colors for different call types – red is for fires – and the quickest route will be shown in blue.
“It will give us a different color so that we have the initial knowledge in our brain to go to that, that set of memories,” said Hall.
There’s a room for crews to decontaminate after a call. They also check each other’s health often.
“We want to know what your heart is doing on a routine basis and we can do that with some of the equipment we have,” stated Hall. “I will do anything in the world to keep them safe and alive.”
Ten firefighters were hit and killed by vehicles last year. For the past 30 years, that number averaged four.
The report does not take into account cancer deaths, which is another common cause due to their exposure to toxins.