On-Duty Deaths in 2021: A Comparison of Police Officers, Military Members, Firefighters, and Wildland Firefighters


By Rob Shaul

More firefighters died on duty than other tactical athletes in 2021 according to various agency’s year-end reports and statistics compiled with the assistance ChatGPT. Statistics for 2022 are not yet available.  

Ninety-six firefighters died on duty, followed by 35 police officers, 28 wildland firefighters and 22 service members. See the breakdown below:

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a total of 96 firefighters died while on duty in the United States in 2021. Of those deaths, 59 were volunteer firefighters, and 37 were career firefighters. The causes of death for firefighters were varied and included activities at a fire scene, responding to or returning from emergency incidents, training activities, sudden cardiac events, internal trauma or asphyxiation, vehicle crashes, burns or smoke inhalation, and other causes.

Police Officers:
According to FBI statistics, a total of 129 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in the United States in 2021.

Wildland Firefighters:
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), a total of 28 wildland firefighters died while on duty in 2021. Causes of death for wildland firefighters included burns and smoke inhalation, vehicle accidents, sudden cardiac events, electrocution, drowning, falls, and other causes.

Military Members:
According to the Department of Defense, a total of 22 service members died while on active duty in 2021. Of those deaths, 14 were due to hostile actions, while 8 were due to non-hostile causes such as accidents, illness, and suicide.


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