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30-Year-Old Lieutenant Dies in Sleep Following Department Training—Vermont

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

F2019-05 Date Released: September 1, 2019

Executive Summary

On February 28, 2018, a 30-year-old male paid on call lieutenant was found deceased in his bed after having completed fire department training the night before. The Medical Examiner’s report listed the cause of death as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease noting that there was a finding of severe, focal atherosclerosis in the left anterior descending artery and a history of hypertension. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators concluded that the training exercises may have triggered a sudden cardiac event in an individual with atherolsclerosis and hypertension. However, the precise cause of the death is unclear as no thrombus was found and the heart did not have clear evidence of major structural changes.

Key Recommendations

NIOSH offers the following recommendations to help reduce the risk of sudden cardiac events among firefighters at this and other fire departments across the country.

  • Ensure that all firefighters receive an annual medical evaluation consistent with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.
  • Ensure firefighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of firefighting and the personal protective equipment used by firefighters as per NFPA 1582.
  • Phase in a comprehensive wellness and fitness program for firefighters.

Read the full report