Saturday, October 3, 2015

Remembering Fallen Firefighters

National Fallen Firefighter Memorial, Emmitsburg MD
Sept. 11, 2013 (Photo by R. Widmar)
Firefighters understand the risks they face when they sign up for the job. However, that acknowledgement does not diminish the sadness, grief, and shock when a firefighter dies in the line of duty.

In spite of improvements in equipment, firefighting tactics, and firefighter fitness, about 100 firefighters die in the line of duty every year in the U.S. according to statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration. In 2013, the year covered by the USFA’s most recent report on firefighter fatalities (, 106 firefighters lost their lives on duty. That number includes 47 volunteers, 29 career (paid), and 30 wildland firefighters. General causes:

  • 77 died from activities related to an emergency incident
  • 55 died from activities at a fire scene
  • 36 died from heart attacks
  • 14 died while responding to or returning from emergency incidents
  • 9 died as a result of vehicle crashes

In the tradition of the fire service, no firefighter is forgotten. Every September and October, firefighters across the country honor their brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice through various events.

9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs: These events are held around the country to honor and remember the FDNY firefighters who were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. From the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation website (

Each participant pays tribute to a FDNY firefighter by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. (The) individual tribute not only remembers the sacrifice of an FDNY brother, but symbolically completes their heroic journey to save others.

The stair climbs are held at high-rise buildings, or outdoor venues such as Colorado’s Manitou Incline or Red Rocks Amphitheater. Proceeds from these events help support fire service survivors and provides assistance to the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11.

IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial: Colorado Springs residents are familiar with this event, which is held every year at the city’s Memorial Park. It is a colorful tribute to fallen members of the International Association of Fire Fighters that includes honor guards, bagpipers, and drummers from across the country. More than 6,000 firefighters, family members, and others attended this year’s event at the newly expanded and reconstructed memorial, which now includes the names of 7,352 IAFF members who have died in service to their communities since 1918. More info:

National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend: The National Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland is dedicated to the memory of all career and volunteer firefighters who have died in the line of duty. This year’s National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend ( is happening now (October 3-4). Eighty-seven firefighters who lost their lives in 2014 will be honored.

(Photo courtesy of National Fallen Firefighter Foundation via Facebook)

Bells Across America for Fallen Firefighters: Historically, fire departments sounded a series of bells when a firefighter died in the line of duty to alert all members that a comrade had made the ultimate sacrifice. This time-honored tradition continues today during the funerals or memorial services for firefighters. As part of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, bells will sound nationwide to honor fallen firefighters. More info: