2014 Fire LODD’s – too many already!


As of February 24, 2014 there were nineteen (19) Firefighter Line-of-Duty Deaths in the United States. At this pace, that number will well exceed 100 related deaths this year.

Despite this alarming rate of on-duty deaths, I’ve heard little more than a peep from the collective fire service. Why is that? Is it because most are cardiac related (12 out of 19)? I’d like to hope that’s not the case.

In the past 10-15 years, catch phrases like “Combat Ready” are spewed on a daily basis with frequency of a salt spreader on this winter’s New Jersey roads.  This term gives the connotation: “to be ready to do battle with the fiery beast in a brave and noble manner, and defeat the beast, (maybe with a few cool battle scars)” but most importantly, come home to your family after the battle is won.

In 19-households across America this year already; nineteen fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins aren’t coming home. In 19-households families are learning to live with a huge void.

I was honored to be able to hear the wife of 2014′s first line-of-duty death: Cosmo Paris, talk about this wonderful and dedicated family man, community advocate and neighbor helping the less fortunate. This man was loved deeply by his family, who will miss him terribly for the rest of their lives – from his wonderful wife to his two year old granddaughter who just got to celebrate her birthday with him two days earlier.

Like Cosmo, these other 18-souls are not just some off-the-shelf commodity that we can easily replace. Each has left the forever-embedded mark on their fire department, community and family; that now leaves a void, never be filled again.

Of these twelve (12) cardiac-related deaths, eight (8) of the heroes were over the age of 50 (my age group). This is an age range that needs to have comprehensive medical physicals yearly, working on cardiovascular fitness and they need to be measured for what level of service the truly can perform – not what they want to perform.

I, like them, need to be cognizant of little warning signs and reflections in the mirror that tells us to either do what you need to be physically capable of doing the job, or it just might be time to coach the “young-ins” from the sidelines. When we’re too hard headed to do it on our own, where are the rest of you chastising us for not being “combat ready?”

What? You only thought combat ready was for actual firefighting activities and skills, not physical and mental fitness? When we learn about the qualities of a firefighter who died while-on-duty, the words courage and hero get tossed around like grass seed on a sod farm. But did you have the courage to tell Fred, Sue or Louie that maybe they weren’t combat ready, that maybe you and they needed to spend a little more time in the gym, get together and develop some healthy cooking habits? What’s the issue, you can’t fit that on a t-shirt and it doesn’t sound cool?

So… fire service battle heroes – what are you going to do today to stop this insane pace of our brothers and sisters dying from easily preventable causes? Yes, I said easily preventable.

When you throw around the words “Combat Ready” – are you ready to start at the most basic and fundamental step? To be physically and mentally fit to do the job before you step foot in the engine bays, let alone hop on the apparatus?

Me, I’m going to go to breakfast with my class of ’72 classmates this morning as I do every Tuesday. I’m going to tell one of them that I love him and that I want to see him stop smoking so we can enjoy these weekly meetings for years to come. Then I’m going to the gym for the fourth day in a row. Not because it mattered as much to me, but because it mattered to my 21-year old son who finally motivated me to go, so I might be around to celebrate a few milestones with him.

So, I ask you: What are you going to do? Are you going to have the courage to be a real hero and tell someone they are not “combat ready” because they’re not physically fit for the battle? Or are you just going to keep shopping for the coolest t-shirt on the market at the next fire “training” conference you attend? And, will that t-shirt be in the next larger size, or a size down from what you were wearing before you set out to be truly “Combat Ready?”

Thanks Tiger Schmittendorf for the grammar and editing.



  1. Anthony. Amazing article. In the fire service there are many of us who need to make the exact health and wellness changes you refer too. Our LODD numbers are far too high and most are preventable with proper nutritional supplements, exercise and proper eating habits.
    Until the mindset of ” It will never happen to me” changes, our LODD numbers will regrettably rise.
    I made the change a little over a year ago. I too am 50 and have 32 years in the fire service. I was prescribed Lipitor for which I never took or filled. I decided at that point to start the transformation and a year later through proper weight management supplementation, exercise and incredibly better eating habits, I have lost 32lbs, my heart rate and blood pressure are as good as they both have been in 20 years, and I feel like i am 35.
    If I can do it, anyone can.
    I felt so strongly about the changes I made, I started a side business in offering weight management solutions through safe and proper supplementation coupled with proper eating habits and again exercise.
    All emergency services need to wake up to our number one killer. Fire Department members volunteer or career need to make this things a part of their daily regiment. Not only does this make Emergency Services members better equipped to fight the challenges associated with our jobs, but it also saves in health care costs.
    I am always available to talk to anyone who is looking to make these very simple life style changes. My e-mail is: ocfc11@gmail.com.

    What is your health and wellness worth?

  2. Fire Departments must be able to say “NO” to members and potential members who are grossly out of shape. Fire Department physicals have to stop being just a cursory exam to insure that you have a spontaneous pulse and corrected vision. As long as quantity continues to prevail over quality (especially in the volunteer service where it seems they will take almost anyone off the street to get a truck on the road) then we will continue to fail in the area of cardiovascular health and physical fitness. When I teach at the academy we have been told that the county chiefs don’t want us to be too hard on their volunteer recruits. God forbid these guys have to break a sweat or put forth minimal effort. We continue to fail on the fireground because we fail in the process of weeding out the candidates who have no business making the fire service a hobby.

    1. God rest both of their soles !!!
      I am amazed that there are not many more comments in this regard.
      We have great training available to anyone on strategy and tactics, operations,etc. We have the best of the best when it comes to equipment, but the key missing component is employee health and wellness. I see this as more than a “fire service” issue. I see it as “all emergency services”.
      The departments that do focus on physical fitness, healthy eating and proper supplementation are a very small percentage in the overall big picture. It is high time that the leaders in the emergency services and their employers get serious about promoting and facilitating health and wellness. In the short and long terms, we can reduce the LODD numbers and at the same time reduce healthcare costs and expensive deductibles.

  3. Mr. Correia….that was awesome. I see so many firefighters who are “Facebook ready” or “Candy Crush ready” but not truly Combat ready. Then, they go to a fire and when they survive (probably because it wasn’t a very tough firefight) they think that they can handle it. So, when they meet the next fire of their life it may become the last fire of their life. “Wear a seat belt” is easy. “No building is worth a firefighter” sounds good. “Get on a treadmill” “Eat healthier” are not cool. Thank you for a great message.

    1. Thanks Tony for your comments. Over time it has been to me. There are those who do and intend to it well based on readiness, training and proper execution. They are usually the quiets ones. Then there are those that boast “combat ready’ & “I fight what you fear”. They usually are the ones who smudge their face and hi-five on the fire-ground in front of those who just lost their home and belongings. Less talk, more action and more leading by example is needed. Just like under President Richard Nixon, when he asked the silent majority of doers to stand up. It’s time the silent majority in the fire services stand up and take the reins and lead a clear message of being ready at all levels to do the job at hand and not just be “picture ready” on the fire-ground.

  4. Tony,

    Thank you very much for sending me a link to your post, I throughly enjoyed your passion and courage. I think it’s critically important that we spend more time talking about health and wellness not only physical health and wellness but mental health and wellness which is a huge part of that puzzle. Having been a lifelong runner and a workout enthusiast I’m always glad to see more people join our workout society ranks.

    I religiously do 10 miles a day on an elliptical and I rarely miss. I do it for my overall cardiovascular health but also is necessary for me due to my current medical condition. And that’s an important part of my message here I do it in an elliptical because despite the fact that I was never a smoker, worked out and ran my entire life, have a wife who cooks for me who is a lifetime vegetarian and nutritionist, I have had several major health issues. Despite the fact that I always got comprehensive annual and now quarterly physicals I got critically sick several times. I point out that I run on an elliptical because my joints can no longer withstand the pounding them on the road. I got screwed over with bad genes, luckily I also got blessed with a good attitude.

    I can no longer participate in physical firefighting but that does not mean that I still cannot contribute to the fire service or my local volunteer fire companies. I think when we want to encourage people we should do it by example. I was recently at a conference where there were 200+ of us in the audience and we were asked to worked out this morning. I had been in the gym that morning at 0500 to do my 10 miles and mine was among the six hands that went up.

    I think the way to get more people to join me in the gym is to ask them politely and to join me in the gym. To let them know how much I enjoy it and how much good it does for me. I understand the exuberance and the excitement of firefighters and how they enjoy expressing their commitment on tee shirts and such. At FDIC I started the courage and valor fun run seven years ago and last year we had over 1000 runners I would ask you to come join us this year. I would ask all 30,000 of our attendees to come join us this year.

    Maybe we could make some T-shirts that say things like, “I ran today for you!” and we could have pictures of our brothers and sister firefighters. I would love to help you in any way I can to enthusiastically and positively motivate everyone to take every effort they can to be healthier. Healthier in their physical lives, their spiritual lives, their moral lives and their public lives. I would hope that we always show the kindness and love that firefighters are known for first whenever we try to make a difference.

    I’d like to thank you again for sending me a link to your post I’m looking forward to your next one and reading more of your thoughts. I’m grateful that you are taking an effort to make our noble profession safer and healthier. Thank you very much for inviting me to the discussion and I hope we get to see one another again soon somewhere down the road. Your fan Bobby Halton

    1. Chief I really do appreciate your detailed comments. Without getting long winded, I would like to say in the chief executive leadership roles I held I have tried to walk the walk, as well as make Health & Wellness a holistic and rewarding process. When I was in Missouri we received a AFG grant for wellness. The young Lieutenant I had run i gave 1 directive, make it holistic.We developed a multi-faceted program. here are just a few of the programs we ran. We brought in the cooking class from the college to teach how to cook healthy meals on shifts. The firefighters families were invited to participate. We had Yoga for each of the shifts for 10 weeks And sent a local pastor to CISM training. In my 2nd leadership position in NJ We did similar with another AFG grant. A second AFG grant we were awarded was to develop a behavioral health program. However I retired full time before it was started. These comments weren’t about me, but to let you know others “get it” and try to promote H&W in a positive, not punitive manner. You truly are a role model. I will try to scrape up a couple of bucks to be able to make it to Indy to take up your challenge, (although I don’t know about 10 miles). I will be heading to the gym after i get off this keyboard. The sad note as I write this post is NJ had another LODD yesterday which appears to be cardiac related. Our 4th LODD in 4 months, 3rd to be cardiac related. As a NFFF LAST & Advocate member I have a passion to turn the tide.

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