Firefighter Suffers Fatal Heart Attack at Commercial Fire – New Jersey

Death in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation

F2015-05 Date Released: July 1, 2015

Executive Summary

On June 8, 2014, a 54-year-old male volunteer firefighter (FF) responded to the scene of a commercial fire and performed interior fire suppression activities. The FF was part of an engine crew that advanced a charged 2.5-inch hoseline into the building. The FF served as the doorman to ensure the hoseline did not get caught on the door. After his second building entry, the FF exited the structure and then collapsed on the curb in the front of the building. On-scene emergency medical service (EMS) personnel immediately initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and placed the FF in an on-scene ambulance for transport to the emergency department (ED). Despite resuscitation efforts on scene, during transport, and in the ED, the FF died. The death certificate and autopsy report, both completed by the Assistant Medical Examiner, listed the cause of death as “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” with physical exertion and smoke inhalation as contributory factors. The autopsy found severely blocked coronary arteries and evidence of an acute heart attack. Based on the FF’s undiagnosed coronary heart disease (CHD), NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical exertion associated with fire suppression activities at this fire triggered the FF’s heart attack and subsequent sudden cardiac death.

Key Recommendations

Provide preplacement and annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters in accordance with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments Ensure fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the various components of NFPA 1582 Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.

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