Firefighter's heart attack highlights job risks

A Knoxville firefighter remained in the cardiovascular intensive care on New Years Day after suffering a heart attack while responding to a house fire late Tuesday night.

KFD Spokesman DJ Corcoran says the department is praying for firefighter Captain Mark Lacey and his family.

A Harvard study shows heart attacks are a serious risk all firefighters face. Heart attacks, not burns or smoke, are the most frequent cause of firefighter deaths on the job. And the study shows when a firefighter is responding to an emergency they are between 10 to 100 times more likely to have a heart attack.

Lacey suffered a heart attack last night when he responded to a fire on Dandyline Drive in East Knoxville and doctors have stabilized him at UT Medical Center, through he remains in the cardiovascular intensive care unit. Corcoran says he was outside the house when it happened.

Lacey has been a Knoxville firefighter for about 20 years. He is also a husband and a father.

"Mark is the type of guy that if you had a question or a concern you could call him. He would stop what he's doing to help you," said Corcoran, who was in the same recruitment class as Lacey.

The extreme stress, heavy gear, and exposure to smoke and other toxins experienced by many firefighters are all factors that increase their heart attack risk. And Corcoran says they try to address that as a department.

He says a well-trained firefighter has a better ability to remain calm in emergency situations, and they focus on teaching recruits how to stay in control.


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