Heart Attacks Leading Cause of Death for On-Duty Firefighters

By: Karen Campbell Email
By: Karen Campbell Email

About 100 firefighters in the U.S. die on the job each year.

Heart attacks cause almost half or about 45 percent of these deaths.

"Firefighting is a very stressful job, both physically and emotionally," said Battalion Chief Jeff Morris, of the Harrisonburg Fire Department.

A stressful job, and a cause for concern.

That's because researchers say heart attacks are considered the leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters.

That risk increases while working at a fire scene.

Morris says it's been that way for a number of yearsm and that emotion plays a big role.

"It causes for an adrenal release, and it gets your heart rate up, and it dilates your vessels. If you're out of shape, it can lead to those heart attacks at a much quicker rate," said Morris.

A study done by researchers at the National Fire Protection Association tracked 1,006 on-duty firefighter deaths in the U.S over a 10 year period ending in 2005.

Forty-four-percent, or 440, suffered sudden cardiac death. Three hundred and seven were volunteer firefighters.

There is no specific cause for these deaths, but researchers suggest it has to do with being out of shape.

Thanks to a grant from FEMA, crews at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department will soon have a 2500 square foot workout facility that will open 24 hours a day.

"We're trying to take a proactive approach here in Grottoes and build this facility to try to build on the strength and conditioning of our volunteers," said Morris.

It's that strength, that helps them keep us safe every day.

"We're here to protect lives and property," said Morris.

Morris says the workout facility is expected to open in the next few months.

To view the study, log onto http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/oscardiacdeath.pdf


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