The National Fire Protection Association reports that the average number of on-duty deaths of firefighters in California and across the country has remained steady at 70 per year, although the number was below 70 through the past five years. Some of the incidents in which firefighters suffered fatal workplace injuries in 2018 include two wildfires in which four firefighters died and a collapsing floor in a structure fire that claimed two more lives. Two fatalities occurred in a crash when firefighters responded to an automobile accident.
However, the average reported number of on-duty deaths does not include indirect loss of lives among firefighters. Studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicate that these workers face multiple workplace hazards that can lead to chronic illnesses. The primary risks include cardiovascular conditions and cancer, both of which have claimed the lives of many firefighters.
NIOSH further reports that the nature of the work has proved to cause behavioral health issues in many firefighters. Sadly, these conditions lead to post-traumatic stress disorders and, in too many cases, to death by suicide. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reports that 82 firefighters took their own lives in 2018.
Firefighters in California who are suffering the consequences of workplace injuries — physical or psychological — might find comfort in knowing that the state-regulated workers’ compensation system will cover their medical expenses and lost wages. Families of firefighters who died in the line of duty can claim survivors’ benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help them obtain compensation to cover end-of-life expenses and receive wage-replacement packages.