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Fire Chief Suffers Fatal Heart Attack At Vehicle Fire – Indiana

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

F2017-13 Date Released:  July 3, 2017

Executive Summary

On November 7, 2016, at 2352 hours a 58-year-old male volunteer Fire Chief (FC) responded to a tractor trailer truck fire and served as Incident Commander. After the fire was knocked down, the FC suddenly collapsed as he was talking with the driver of the truck. An ambulance was dispatched at 0002 hours. Fire Service personnel on scene initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a police officer retrieved an AED (automated external defibrillator) from his patrol car and provided several shocks. The ambulance arrived on scene at 0018 hours and initiated advanced cardiac life support, which was continued en route to the hospital emergency department (ED). Hospital ED personnel continued resuscitation efforts unsuccessfully for approximately 20 minutes. The FC was pronounced dead on November 8 at 0117 hours.

The medical examiner’s report listed the immediate cause of death as acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). The autopsy report documented an acute thrombosis in the left anterior descending coronary artery. NIOSH investigators concluded that the physical/emotional stress of the emergency response may have triggered the cardiovascular event.

The FC had several risk factors for coronary artery disease and heart attack. In addition to male sex, age over 45 years, and family history, he was a smoker [AHA 2016; NHLBI 2016].

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that all fire fighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with National Fire Protection Association (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 fire fighting, 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.
  • Perform an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation.


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