It’s important to fully understand what you’re getting into. While on the job, wildland firefighters will be forced to face a wide range of dangers that put their health and safety at risk. To make sure that you’re up for the job, familiarize yourself with these main dangers that wildland firefighters face.
Let’s start with the obvious. One of the main dangers that wildland firefighters face is getting burned by the wild flames that they seek to subdue. Needless to say, entering burning forests poses a risk for getting burned. While there are several ways to minimize the risk of getting scorched—such as wearing high-quality protective equipment and following proper safety practices—it’s impossible to eliminate the risk entirely in such an unpredictable environment.
While on the job, firefighters also face a risk of entrapment. Changing weather conditions and other largely unpredictable factors can cause the behavior of a wildfire to change suddenly. In such a case, wildland firefighters may find themselves pushed up against a wall or surrounded by flames. If all escape routes and safety zones become blocked, a firefighter may have no choice but to deploy their fire shelter as a last resort. However, fire shelters only offer around a small chance of survival. As such, it’s crucial to locate well-defined escape routes and safety zones as well as establish lookouts and effective communication methods prior to engaging in fire-suppression activities.
Another one of the main dangers that wildland firefighters face is harmful fumes. While on the job, wildland firefighters will come into contact with a wide range of dangerous fumes and airborne particles such as smoke, ash, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, and other chemicals that wildfires emit.
While firefighters must wear a range of personal protective garments and equipment—such as shrouds, masks, and particulate filters—a substantial amount of harmful toxins can still make their way into the lungs. In fact, smoke inhalation is currently one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths. Some of the main health and safety risks associated with smoke and chemical inhalation while firefighting includes permanent lung damage, chronic bronchitis, abnormal lung function, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses.
Wildland firefighters also face the risk of falling ill to heat-related illnesses. When getting up close and personal with wildfires, you’re likely going to get a bit hot—especially if the weather is particularly warm. Couple those sweltering conditions with several layers of protective clothing, strenuous physical activity, and long work hours and you’ve got a recipe for a heat-related illness. Common heat-related illnesses that firefighters fall victim to include heat stroke, heat rash, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.
Another one of the leading causes of death that plagues wildland firefighters is heart disease. Fighting wildfires is an extremely physically demanding job. On the job, firefighters will likely have to carry heavy equipment, traverse several miles of rugged terrain, and hike up steep inclines, among other physically demanding activities. Such arduous job responsibilities can take a toll on one’s heart—especially when coupled with exposure to carbon monoxide, hot working conditions, and the inherent stresses of fighting wildfires.
Unfortunately, heart disease is common among wildland firefighters. To minimize one’s potential for developing heart disease, it is important to maintain high levels of physical fitness and avoid activities that place added stress on one’s heart, such as smoking.
Impact injuries are also a common occurrence in the field of wildland firefighting. While working in burning forests, partially burned trees and branches can fall at any moment and may strike firefighters. In addition, falling rocks, collisions from vehicles, and other large moving objects can also result in serious impact injuries. To prevent impact injuries from occurring, it’s essential to wear high-quality personal protective equipment such as hard hats and to always remain vigilant of one’s surroundings.
Firefighters face a high risk of dehydration while on the job. The typical work environment of a wildland firefighter is extremely hot, dry, and remote. In other words, water is pretty hard to come by. When embarking on a job, firefighters typically must bring all of their drinking water on their backs, which may have to last them for several days. Thus, they don’t have an unlimited amount to quench their thirst.
When you consider the fact that wildland firefighters are also engaging in extremely strenuous physical activity and battling blazing flames, it’s not hard to understand why dehydration poses such a large safety threat. To minimize the dangers of dehydration such as seizures, kidney failure, heatstroke, and low blood volume, it’s crucial for wildland firefighters to develop strong and effective hydration strategies.
While on the job, wildland firefighters are also at risk for incurring lacerations. Wildland firefighters utilize a wide range of sharp hand tools such as saws, axes, and chainsaws to construct fire lines and clear away debris. When using such tools, accidents can occur and firefighters may end up with deep scrapes and cuts. In addition to sharp equipment, walking through dense forests with prevalent protruding branches also poses a risk for lacerations. Once again, wearing durable, high-quality personal protective equipment plays a crucial role in preventing this prevalent wildland firefighting safety risk.
The Supply Cache recognizes the large role that high-quality gear and equipment plays in keeping wildland firefighters safe on the job. To minimize the many safety threats listed above, we have developed a wide range of high-quality wildland firefighting supplies ranging from protective clothing to fire shelters for sale. With three decades of experience serving the wildland fire community, you can trust us to provide the products, solutions, and specialized gear your squad requires. To learn more about our extensive collection of fire safety equipment and experience our unparalleled level of customer service in the industry, contact us today.