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Captain Suffers Heart Attack During Fire Suppression and Dies Two Days Later – Texas


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

F2015-04 Date Released: July 31, 2015

Executive Summary

On February 19, 2015, a 56-year-old male career Captain was dispatched to a house fire. At the scene, the Captain and a fire fighter, both wearing full turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), stretched a 1¾-inch hoseline to a window and sprayed water through the window’s burglar bars. After another crew opened the burglar bars on the front door, the Captain and other fire fighters entered the house to continue fire suppression. After approximately 10 minutes, the Captain exited the house, remarking that he could not breathe and was having chest pains. After sitting on Ladder 46’s bumper, he removed his SCBA and turnout gear. When moved to a stretcher, he became unresponsive, and lost his pulse and respirations. On scene ambulance paramedics provided advanced life support (cardiac monitoring, intravenous [IV] line placement, IV medications, and rescue airway) which continued en route to the local hospital’s emergency department (ED). The ambulance arrived at the ED at 1945 hours where an acute heart attack with complications of cardiogenic shock was confirmed. Despite 24 hours of life support, the Captain suffered irreversible anoxic brain damage. In consultation with the family, life support was removed and the Captain died on February 21, 2015.

Key Recommendations

  • Provide annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters consistent with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, to identify fire fighters at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD)
  • Perform symptom-limiting exercise stress tests (ESTs) on firefighters at increased risk for CHD and sudden cardiac events
  • Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by fire fighters, and the components of NFPA 1582
  • Perform an annual physical ability evaluation
  • Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters.

Read the full report


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1998, Congress appropriated funds to NIOSH to conduct a fire fighter initiative that resulted in the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program which examines line-of-duty-deaths or on duty deaths of fire fighters to assist fire departments, fire fighters, the fire service and others to prevent similar fire fighter deaths in the future. The agency does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of fire departments and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the victim, the fire department or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit.

For further information, visit the program Web site at or call toll free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).