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FIGHTING WILDFIRES

photo collage - airplane spraying wildland fire and scene of wildland fire

Wildfire Statistics*
As of July 1, 2013

Number of Fires: 23,629

Acres of Land: 1,879,510

For current information, please view the Wildland Situation Report

*Information reported to the National Interagency Fire Center1

Every year, hundreds of thousands of acres of land burn across the United States and wildland fire fighters (WFFs) are asked to protect our lives, our homes and our forests. But fires are unpredictable and dangerous. Between 2001-2012, over 200 on-duty WFF fatalities occurred. The 2013 fire season has been one of the most catastrophic seasons on record; as of July 1, at least 24 workers have died while performing wildland fire related duties.  Nineteen of these deaths occurred during the recent Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona.2 

NIOSH offers resources for fire departments, fire fighters, and partner organizations to prevent on-duty injuries, illnesses and deaths from hazards and exposures associated with fighting wildfires. Common hazards faced on the fire line can include burnovers/entrapments, heat-related illnesses and injuries, smoke inhalation, vehicle-related injuries (including aircraft), slips, trips, and falls and others.3

CDC and NIOSH also provide resources for responders in conducting rescue and clean-up activities.

Key Resources

Wildland Fire Fighting: Hot Tips to Stay Safe and Healthy
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-158 (September 2013)
Every year, hundreds of thousands of acres of land burn across the United States and wildland fire fighters (WFFs) are asked to protect our lives, our homes and our forests. But fires are unpredictable and dangerous. In fact, over 200 on-duty WFF fatalities occurred between 2001 and 2012.

NIOSH Wildland Fire Fighter Safety and Health Blog       
Wildland fire fighting can be a dangerous occupation. The men and women fighting theses fires face many hazards.  Read more on the NIOSH Science Blog

Rhabdomyolysis: What Wildland Fire Fighters Need To Know
Wildland firefighters are at increased risk for rhabdomyolysis. This document defines rhabdomyolysis, identifies the sign and symptoms and what to do if a fire fighter has symptoms. 

Preventing Heat-related Illness or Death of Outdoor Workers
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-143 (May 2013)
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employers have a plan in place to prevent heat-related illness. The plan should include hydration (drinking plenty of water), acclimatization (getting used to weather conditions), and schedules that alternate work with rest. Employers should also train workers about the hazards of working in hot environments.

Promoting Hearing Health among Fire Fighters
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-142 (May 2013)
Provides recommendations to promote better hearing health through the use of quieter equipment, better work practices, hearing protection devices, and implementation of effective hearing loss prevention programs.

Worker Safety During Fire Cleanup
CDC Fact Sheet details types of hazards that workers may face during fire clean up efforts, including electrical hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, hazardous materials, & confined spaces.

Preventing Fire Fighter Fatalities Due to Heart Attacks and Other Sudden Cardiovascular Events
NIOSH Publication No. 2007-133 (June 2007)
NIOSH recommends that fire departments and fire fighters follow established medical screening guidelines, adopt risk reduction measures during fire fighting operations, and develop and participate in comprehensive wellness/fitness programs.
En Español

Hazard ID: Fire Fighters Exposed to Electrical Hazards During Wildland Fire Operations
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-112 (January 2002)
NIOSH investigated two separate incidents in 1999 in which fire fighters died or were seriously injured from exposures to electricity while fighting wildland fires.
En Español

Related NIOSH Topic Pages

Fire Fighter Directory Page

Heat Stress

Respirators:

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program

Emergency Response Resources:

Electrical Safety

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP)

The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program conducts investigations of fire fighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries.

Recent FFFIPP reports on fighting wildfires have been listed. For a comprehensive listing of FFFIPP reports, please search the Fatality Investigation Reports.

Health Hazard Evaluations

NIOSH conducts Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs) to find out whether there are health hazards to employees caused by exposures or conditions in the workplace.

Some recent HHE reports related to firefighting have been listed below. For a comprehensive listing of HHE reports please search the HHE Database.

Other NIOSH Publications

Preventing Death and Injuries of Fire Fighters Operating Modified Excess/Surplus Vehicles
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-125 (December 2010)
Fire fighters may be at risk for crash-related injuries while operating excess and other surplus vehicles that have been modified for fire service use. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has summarized recommendations to prevent injuries and deaths while operating these vehicles.

Hazard ID: Traffic Hazards to Fire Fighters While Working Along Roadways
NIOSH Publication No. 2001-143 (June 2001)
The number of fire fighters struck and killed by motor vehicles has dramatically increased within recent years. This document details case studies and provides recommendations for prevention.
En Español

Other Resources

Fire Safety - CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response Web Site

Firewise

International Association of Wildland Fire

National Interagency Fire Center

National Fire Protection Association

National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

United States Fire Administration

United States Forest Service

United States Department of Interior

 


1National Interagency Fire Center. [2013].  Date Accessed: July, 2013.

2 Federal Emergency Management Agency, Fire Administration (US). [2013] Firefighter Fighter Fatalities. Date accessed: July , 2013.

3 Britton C, et al., Epidemiology of injuries to wildland firefighters.
Am J Emerg Med. 2013 Feb; 31(2):339-45. [Epub 2012 Nov 15].

 

 
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