There is much you can do to reduce your risk of dying during a wildfire. Knowing how firefighters are killed is a great first step toward survival.
I want to give some information that may help you survive a wildfire. This report is part of a series of features on what to expect when faced with a forest fire and how people are killed. Knowing how people die may just keep you alive if caught in a wildfire.
Each year the National Wildfire Coordinating Group prepares a "SafetyGram" that documents wildfire fatalities across the United States. It includes records of death and injury from Federal, State, City/county, rural, and volunteer firefighters. It gives specific information on each incident that undergoes investigation.
SafetyGram reports, over a significant period of years, that of 44 firefighters entrapped by a fire, none who used fire shelters died. All government firefighters are required to use fire shelters. Fire shelters should be carried by everyone in the business of fighting wildfire or participating in a fire fighting campaign.
Individuals involved in wildland fire operations died more often in burnovers than from any other cause. This is suggested from SafetyGram data collected from 1990 to 1998. Burnovers are fires that overrun you and/or your equipment. Fifteen separate burnovers led to the death of 39 firefighters during this nine year period.
Aircraft accidents, heart attacks, and falling snags cause fatalities but take a backseat to burnovers. Here is the cause of death by percentage of 133 persons who died while involved in fighting wildland fires from 1990 to 1998.
Burnover - 29%
Aircraft accidents - 23%
Heart attacks - 21%
Vehicle accidents - 19%
Falling snags - 4%
Other(drowning, electrocution, training)- 4%
Developed from the USFS report Wildland Fire Fatalities in the United States 1990-1998 , March 1999