FIGHTING WILDFIRES

Wildland Firefighter conducts back burn of dry grass to deny additional fuel sources in the event of a wildfire. Image provided by US Forest Service Technology and Development Program.

Wildland Firefighter conducts back burn of dry grass to deny additional fuel sources in the event of a wildfire. Image provided by US Forest Service Technology and Development Program.

Publications and Resources

What Wildland Fire Fighters Need to Know about Rhabdomyolysis
NIOSH Publication No. 2018-131 (May 2018)
Rhabdomyolysis (often called rhabdo) is the breakdown of damaged muscle tissue that releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood. Early treatment can prevent serious medical problems.

Rhabdomyolysis in Wildland Fire Fighters: A Patient Population at Risk
NIOSH Publication No. 2018-132 (May 2018)
Wildland fire fighting involves exposure to heat and prolonged, intense exertion. These factors increase the risk for rhabdomyolysis. Healthcare providers can prevent debilitating consequences.

Noise Exposure among Federal Wildland Fire Fighters.External
Wildland fire fighters use many tools and equipment that produce noise levels that may be considered hazardous to hearing. This study evaluated 174 personal dosimetry measurements on 156 wildland fire fighters conducting various training and fire suppression tasks. Noise exposures often exceeded occupational exposure limits and suggest that wildland fire fighters may be at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss, particularly those operating chainsaws, chippers, and masticators.

Wildland Firefighter Deaths in the United States: A Comparison of Existing Surveillance Systems.External
Multiple agencies publish fatality summaries for wildland firefighters; however, the reported number and types vary. Data within five surveillance systems were examined to better understand the types of wildland firefighter data collected, to assess each system’s utility in characterizing wildland firefighter fatalities, and to determine each system’s potential to inform prevention strategies.

Where occupation and environment overlap: US Forest Service worker exposure to Libby Amphibole fibers.External
NIOSH conducted an evaluation of exposures to asbestiform amphibole, known as Libby Amphibole (LA), to personnel from the US Department of Agriculture-Forest Service (USFS) working in the Kootenai National Forest near a former vermiculite mine close to Libby, Montana.  This article describes the application of EPA methods for assessing cancer risks to NIOSH sampling results.

Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013
During 2000–2013, 78 wildland firefighters were fatally injured while participating in wildland fire duties involving aircraft. Although the number of wildland firefighter deaths due to aviation-related incidents have decreased in recent years, the study showed working with and around aircraft is still one of the highest risk activities for firefighters.

Arterial stiffness, oxidative stress, and smoke exposure in wildland firefighters.
An assessment of the association between exposure, oxidative stress, symptoms, and cardiorespiratory function in wildland firefighters. Biomarkers of oxidative stress may serve as indicators of arterial stiffness in wildland firefighters.

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.
En Español

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.

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.

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

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

Noise Exposure Among Federal Wildland Fire Fighters Blog
Wildland fire fighters may be considered at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. To prevent fire fighters from developing a hearing impairment, NIOSH recommends that all wildland fire fighters be enrolled in a hearing conservation program and that fire agencies establish and maintain fire service specific hearing loss prevention programs. Read more on the NIOSH Science Blog.

Arduous Duty: Using Three Data Sources to Create a Single Wildland Fire Fighter On-Duty Death Surveillance System
Wildland fire fighter-specific fatality data are often sparse or combined with information on all U.S. fire fighter deaths, as a result, NIOSH researchers created a surveillance system to track wildland fire fighter fatalities in the U.S.  Read more on the NIOSH Science Blog.

Wildland Fire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials
Cdc-pdfExternal
This guide is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, to take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.

Stop, Think, and Talk, before Acting: United States Forest Service Video
The Forest Service continues on a journey to build safe, rewarding, and resilient workplaces for all employees. Life-Work dialogues build upon their sincere commitment to continually improve employee well-being and success. Watch the video to see photos of NIOSH researchers on the fireline and see what it is all about.

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 KnowCdc-pdfExternal
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.

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.

CDC Wildfires Information
More and more people make their homes in areas that are prone to wildfires. This webpage provides information about how to protect yourself and your family from a wildfire, evacuate safely during a wildfire, and how to stay healthy when you return home.

Page last reviewed: June 1, 2018, 08:10 AM