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Fire fighter suffers sudden cardiac death while working at a grass fire - Mississippi.

Baldwin-T; Hales-T
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2014-11, 2014 Aug; :1-12
On February 1, 2014, a 57-year-old male volunteer fire fighter ("FF") spotted a grass fire threatening a local residence and nearby barn. After notifying dispatch, he assisted the local fire department in extinguishing the fire. He pulled a 1½-inch hoseline to the fire in two locations and to the top of the engine's hosebed. While atop the engine hosebed, the FF was found unresponsive and not breathing (1341 hours). The incident commander of the responding fire department notified dispatch, then began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The FF was placed into the bed of a pickup truck and driven to the ambulance station with CPR administered en route. Upon arrival, the ambulance paramedics began advanced life support including cardiac monitoring with defibrillations, intravenous cardiac resuscitation medications, and intubation. The ambulance transported the FF to the hospital's emergency department (ED) where advanced life support continued an additional 12 minutes without a change in the FF's clinical status. At 1424 hours the attending physician pronounced the FF dead, and resuscitation efforts were discontinued. The death certificate, completed by the county coroner, listed "sudden cardiac death due to stress/overexertion at fire scene due to intentionally set fire due to hypertensive heart disease" as the cause of death. No autopsy was performed. Blood tests for carboxyhemoglobin were negative, suggesting the FF had minimal exposure to the carbon monoxide in fire smoke. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigators concluded that assisting with fire suppression activities probably triggered either a heart attack or a cardiac arrhythmia resulting in sudden cardiac death. NIOSH investigators offer the following recommendations to reduce the risk of heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest among fire fighters at this and other fire departments. 1) Provide preplacement and annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters in accordance with NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, to identify fire fighters at increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). 2 ) Ensure exercise stress tests are performed on fire fighters at increased risk for CHD. 3) Ensure that fire fighters are cleared for return to 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. 4) Phase in a mandatory comprehensive wellness and fitness program for fire fighters. 5) Perform a candidate and member physical ability evaluation. 6) Provide fire fighters with medical clearance to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) as part of the fire department's medical evaluation program. 7) Conduct annual respirator fit testing. 8) Perform an autopsy on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities.
Region-4; Fire-fighters; Emergency-responders; Cardiovascular-disease; Cardiovascular-system-disease; Cardiovascular-system-disorders; Physical-fitness; Medical-screening
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-F2014-11; M082014
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division