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Incident Name: 
Date: incident date 10/3/2010; death date 10/7/2010
Personnel: James Carlyle Saunders
Age: 52
Agency/Organization: Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District
Position: firefighter

Summary: Firefighter Jim Saunders and other firefighters from his fire department controlled a wildland fire that occurred near a local golf course. This followed 15 other calls he responded to over the previous 2 days. Firefighters were in the process of mopping up the grass fire when Firefighter Saunders became ill and collapsed. He was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced life support by firefighters at the scene and transported by ambulance to the hospital. Firefighter Saunders had suffered a heart attack. He died two days later.

James Saunders James Saunders


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Incident Location: Haggin Oaks Municipal Golf Course, USNG: 10S FH 3895 7742

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • NIOSH Report: Fire Fighter Suffers Heart Attack While Fighting Grass Fire and Dies 2 Days Later – California (505 K pdf) Please read the entire report.

    NIOSH investigators offer the following recommendations to address general safety and health issues.

    • Provide annual medical evaluations to all fire fighters.
    • Incorporate exercise stress tests following standard medical guidelines into a Fire Department medical evaluation program.
    • Perform an annual physical performance (physical ability) evaluation for all members.
    • Ensure that fire fighters wear appropriate protective clothing for the specific type of incident.
    • Consider incident scene rehabilitation (rehab) during certain fire operations.
    • Perform an autopsy on all on-duty fire fighter fatalities.

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Firefighter Dies After Heart Attack, Leaves Behind Wife & Kid

    October 7, 2010 | Online Article (no longer online)

    A Sac Metro firefighter has died after suffering cardiac arrest while battling a fire at a golf course. A FOX40 viewer overheard a fire dispatch radio channel early Thursday morning announce the death of the firefighter. The man was part of the crew responding to a grass fire at Haggin Oaks Golf Course on Sunday, October 3rd. The firefighter was transported to Mercy San Juan Hospital for treatment.

    Later in the morning, Sac Metro Fire Department sent out an official release confirming the firefighter was taken off life support. He was identified as Jim Saunders, with Engine Company 101.

    According to the release, "Jim was a community servant, and his last selfless act was to make an organ donation. Jim was able to donate his liver, both kidneys and other tissue. Jim's donation of life will benefit 3 people, it is important to express how proud Jim's family is of him." His funeral is tentatively set for next Tuesday. Saunders leaves behind his wife Holly, and adult children Erik & Rachel.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

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