Wildland Fire Fighter Dies From Hyperthermia During Pack Test—Arizona
Death in the Line of Duty…A summary of a NIOSH fire fighter fatality investigation
F2015-16 Date Released: June 21, 2016
On June 6, 2015, a 30-year-old male seasonal wildland fire fighter (FF) was completing the arduous duty work capacity test (“pack test”). After walking 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in 40 minutes, he collapsed about 100 yards before the finish line. Crew members assisted him to his feet and helped him cross the finish line. A standby emergency medical technician treated him for heat exposure. He became unresponsive and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was begun. The emergency medical technician notified Dispatch and departed with the FF in the ambulance. A paramedic unit met the ambulance en route to the hospital’s emergency department (ED). The FF was transferred to the paramedic unit where they provided advanced life support. They did cardiac monitoring and placed an intraosseous line for resuscitative medications. They continued CPR for about 14 minutes. The FF’s clinical status did not improve. Medical control was notified and the FF was pronounced dead en route to the ED.
The Medical Examiner completing the death certificate listed “hyperthermia” as the cause of death. The Forensic Pathologist completed the autopsy report. It listed “hyperthermia and probable dehydration due to physical exertion” as the cause of death.
- Provide preplacement and 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)
- Ensure ice water immersion therapy is rapidly available for training involving heavy physical exertion
- Ensure fire fighters are acclimatized prior to the pack test