Study shows rate of on-duty firefighter deaths declines nationwide

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Many of the 60 on-duty firefighter fatalities that occurred in 2017 happened while responding to fire emergencies.

Several others, however, occurred during non-fire emergency calls such as car wrecks or downed trees.

"It doesn't have to be a fire-related emergency. People driving by, they're not paying attention, they strike several first responders, our tow truck drivers, that's why Florida's created the move-over law to try to prevent this," Lynn Haven Fire Department Chief John Delonjay said.

Other leading factors are health and stress.

"Whether it be a causality, anything from an infant to an adult, time over, again and again, it wears not only physically on the first responder, [but] emotionally. So that causes a lot of stress build up for the first responders and that can relate to heart problems and there's other new initiatives that are out now that we're focusing on in the fire service and that's cancer," DeLonjay said.

According to officials with the National Fire Protection Association, the rate of deaths among firefighters is declining as fire departments across the country implement new measures to keep their men and women safe.

"We have this team that's built up of other first responders so they can relate to what they're actually going through to try to help de-stress some of these individuals," DeLonjay said.

The Lynn Haven Fire Department is also upgrading equipment and getting new gear to continue improving safety and health.

Officials say while it's encouraging to see the death rates declining, the N.F.P.A. study only includes on-the-job deaths. Several off-duty deaths could also have a correlation with the career.