LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The number of firefighters killed in the line of duty dropped to 72 in 2010, the lowest figure since at least 1977, a fire safety association said on Monday.
Last year was the fifth time in the past decade that firefighter deaths fell below 100 for the year, said the National Fire Protection Association.
The record low in firefighter deaths is largely due to advances in training, equipment and fire codes, said James Shannon, the president and CEO of the Massachusetts-based fire association.
Most of the on-duty firefighter deaths resulted from overexertion, stress and medical issues, with heart attacks being the leading cause, the association said.
The second leading cause of death among firefighters last year was being struck with an object, including 11 who were killed in vehicle crashes.
Eight firefighters died last year when they were caught or trapped at a blaze, the association said.
National Fire Protection Association officials said the 72 on-duty firefighter deaths for 2010 was the lowest figure since the organization began conducting its annual study of fatalities in 1977.
The fatalities total also represented a decrease from the previous two years. In 2009, 82 firefighters died and 105 perished the year before, the association said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Dan Whitcomb)