Wildland firefighters put their safety at risk to protect our lives, homes, and forests. On the job, they face numerous dangers, such as unpredictable fire conditions, burn-overs, entrapments, smoke inhalation, heat-related illnesses, vehicle-related injuries, falls, and several other fire line hazards. As a result of these significant safety threats, hundreds of fatalities and numerous injuries have been sustained by wildland firefighters through the years. Because of the dangerous nature of the job, there is no way to completely eliminate the potential for injury or fatality. However, there are several ways one can minimize the risks involved with this inherently dangerous occupation. To avoid injury while on the job, here are some essential safety tips for wildland firefighters.
Implement sufficient fitness standards
Implementing sufficient fitness standards is essential to ensure that firefighters can adapt to the physically strenuous conditions of wildland firefighting. Without adequate fitness, firefighters are more susceptible to medical issues while on the fire line, such as heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiac-related events. Such medical issues are the leading cause of death in firefighters—even more so than burn-overs or entrapment.
As such, it is important for firefighters to keep up with ongoing aerobic and muscular endurance training to keep their hearts strong and their bodies prepared. To further help mitigate medical issues, wildland firefighters should also adhere to a comprehensive wellness and fitness program that is consistent with the NFPA 1583 Standard on Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members.
Utilize updated equipment
Wildland firefighters rely heavily on their equipment to protect them and help them efficiently and effectively control fires. To improve wildland firefighting efforts, firefighting gear and equipment is consistently being updated to adhere to improved safety standards.
By using advanced equipment that features better-suited materials and technology rather than outdated, worn-out supplies, the safety risks firefighters experience while out on the fire line can be reduced. If budgetary restrictions are preventing your department from purchasing updated equipment, consider applying for a Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Grant or a Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) to help cover the costs.
Adhere to procedures that help reduce smoke exposure
The final safety tip for wildland firefighters will mitigate damage from smoke. When fighting sizeable wildfires, smoke inhalation is a serious health and safety risk. Smoke from wildfires can contain several dangerous substances, such as carbon monoxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other harmful particulates. When structural fires occur as a result of wildfires, additional contaminants, such as lead, formaldehyde, or asbestos from old homes, can create additional health risks.
To mitigate the respiratory hazards caused by inhaling such harmful substances, it is important to implement procedures to reduce smoke exposure. Examples of fire operations procedures that can help decrease smoke exposure include avoiding downwind firefighting, rotating crews through areas where heavy smoke is present, and utilizing equipment rather than firefighters in holding areas when possible.
At the Supply Cache, we understand the critical role that gear and equipment plays in helping wildland firefighters stay safe. As such, we are committed to providing innovative gear solutions of the highest quality. Our wide range of products include wildfire helmets, fire packs, hand tools, fire shelters, and other wildland firefighting essentials. To supply your team with the equipment they need to stay safe and healthy while out on the fire line, shop the Supply Cache today.