Investigators conclude that the exertion of the training precipitated the heart attack
On June 10, 2015, a 33-year-old career, seasonal wildland fire superintendent (the “Superintendent”) completed physical fitness training. The training included a 1.8-mile trail run on a trail over rolling hills. The Superintendent completed the run at a 5.4-mile per hour pace. Following the run, he talked with crewmembers in the fire office. He reported no signs or symptoms of cardiac problems, but suddenly collapsed. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was initiated, 911 was notified, and an ambulance and air evacuation medical helicopter were dispatched. Despite treatment for 43 minutes, the Superintendent’s condition did not improve. Ambulance and air evacuation paramedics conferred with the emergency department physician. Following the physician’s guidance they pronounced the Superintendent dead at the scene.
The death certificate and the autopsy report listed the cause of death as “acute coronary artery thrombosis,” commonly known as a heart attack. NIOSH investigators conclude that the exertion of the training precipitated the heart attack.
The following recommendations address general safety and health issues and would not have prevented the Superintendent’s death:
- Provide annual medical evaluations to all wildland fire fighters consistent with 5 CFR 339, Medical Qualification Determinations, and NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments
- Ensure that wildland fire fighters are cleared for duty by a physician knowledgeable about the physical demands of wildland fire fighting, the personal protective equipment used by wildland fire fighters, and the medical fitness for duty guidelines for fire fighters contained in NFPA 1582
- Ensure automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are readily available as part of the basic life support equipment.