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New Plaque Remembers 134 Pittsburgh Firefighters Who Died While On Duty

To honor city firefighters who died in the line of duty, the Pittsburgh Veteran Firefighter’s Association donated a memorial plaque on June 16 outside the Fire Academy Training Center in Highland Park. It honors the 134 Pittsburgh firefighters who died while on duty; the first was in 1871.

Retired Pittsburgh firefighter John Gambetta said the leading cause of death among firefighters is a heart attack, followed by apparatus issues, collapses and smoke inhalation or CO2 poisoning. Heart attack remains the number one cause of death among firefighters throughout the nation.

Gambetta said the plaque represents honor, bravery, and the sacrifice of firefighters.

“We know that they were ready to give up their own life for a total stranger who needed their help,” Gambetta said. “These are the men and women who set the standard in this fire bureau, and we merely followed along knowing full well that one day the call might come when we, too, would have to carry out that standard of laying down our lives.”

There were more than 300 fires in Allegheny County in 2020, and 23 fires so far in 2021.

Between 1990 and 2020, 252 Pennsylvania firefighters died while on duty, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

I am a senior at Clarion University studying Integrated Journalism. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and enjoy covering Pittsburgh-related news.
Ashton is from Louisville, Kentucky studying art and biology at Carnegie Mellon University. She is concentrating her creative studies in photography in pursuit of a career in photojournalism.