Iowans will join a national campaign by public-safety leaders to reduce deaths among firefighters. Des Moines Fire Department spokesman Brian O’Keefe says it’s a dangerous job, but not in the ways and places most people may think. Nationally, O’Keefe says there have been 55 deaths in the line of duty…one every 100 hours, a firefighter dying in the line of duty. He says most often, though, the cause is heart attack or some form of cardiovascular injury, and a lot of times they happen after the event — when they’re back at the station. O’Keefe says it’s hit right here at home in Iowa. This year a firefighter in the Des Moines area (he was a volunteer, in Urbandale) had come back after responding to a call, and he died in his home, of a heart attack. The National Falls Firefighters Foundation says an average of 100 firefighters die each year in the line of duty, and is teaming with the U.S. Fire Administration to reduce firefighter fatalities by 25 percent over the next five years. They say most often deaths result from heart attacks or vehicle accidents. In Des Moines earlier this year O’Keefe says a firetruck rolled over, injuring three firefighters and killing two people in a car coming the other direction. And late in March, a woman was critically injured when she pulled out of a fast-food driveway in front of a firetruck answering a call. Coming on June 21, all fire departments across the nation have been asked to do a “stand down” day…answer emergency calls, but with the rest of their time review training and safety procedures. And they’ll talk about what’s in the fridge at the fire station. A line-of-duty death in the service requires an autopsy — and they’re finding that many of the firefighters had a preexisting condition. They’ve kept going during a fire, with that “fight or flight” adrenaline summoned up for the emergency, but it’s afterward, back at the station, that a piece of plaque may break loose from an artery that’s been working especially hard. If a death occurs within a certain time following an emergency call it’s considered related to the line of duty. He explains while they don’t get a lot of heatstroke or other immediate symptoms during the emergency but the heart’s been so stressed from the workload and adrenaline that “Boom,” he says, “you’re back at the fire station, or if you’re a volunteer you’re back home.” Fire stations around Iowa are planning their own awareness events to improve the health and safety of their firefighters so at the end of a fire, “everybody comes back home.”