If you’re looking for a safe profession, wildland firefighting may not be the job for you. The field of wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous one that poses numerous threats to one’s health and safety. Before committing yourself to the responsibility of entering burning forests to tame uncontrollable wildfires, you should have a strong understanding of the safety risks that the job poses. For this reason, we have compiled a list of some of the most common types of wildfire injuries that occur. We are going to skip vehicle and dehydration-related injuries or illness in this article as its intent is to educate readers on the use of wildland PPE.
It should come as no surprise that in a field involving fighting fires, there is always a risk of burn injuries. In addition to open flames, some of the most common causes of burns that firefighters incur on the job include contact with hot objects such as metal tools, radiation burns from constant sun exposure during extremely long shifts, or contact with strong chemicals.
Depending on the magnitude and duration of heat exposure, burns sustained on the job can range from minor first-degree burns to serious fourth-degree burns.
- First-Degree Burns: superficial burns that only impact the outer layer of skin and may have mild symptoms such as redness, swelling, and pain.
- Second-Degree Burns: also known as partial thickness burns, second-degree burns that impact both the outer and underlayer of skin—known as the dermis—and may cause swelling and blistering as well as redness and pain.
- Third-Degree Burns: burns that destroy the outer layer of skin, the dermis, and harm the layer of fat which lies beneath them. Because this type of burn damages one’s nerve endings, it typically does not cause pain.
- Fourth-Degree Burns: a fourth-degree burn is the most serious burn injury a person can experience. Such burns destroy all layers of one’s skin as well as harm bones, muscles, and tendons.
When it comes to minimizing the risk of burns while working as a wildland firefighter, proper protective clothing plays an integral role. Ultimately, protective clothing serves as a primary line of defense against excess heat and flames. For this reason, firefighters must choose clothing made from flame-resistant fabrics such as Tecasafe Plus or Nomex that will not easily melt or burn in the presence of extremely high temperatures.
Deep cuts and tears in the skin are also some of the most common types of wildfire injuries that occur. Firefighters may sustain such injuries in a variety of different ways such as accidentally wounding themselves on axes, saws, and other hand tools while cutting a fireline or while hiking through dense forests where sharp branches and twigs may scrape against their skin. To prevent lacerations from occurring, firefighters should always wear durable, full-coverage personal protective equipment and clothing while on the job.
While on the job, many wildland firefighters also experience head injuries ranging from minor head trauma to severe concussions. Each year, thousands of head injuries occur in the field due to falling branches, collapsing trees, sliding rocks, collisions with machinery, or trips and falls. Because head injuries can result in long-term complications or even death, a quality, sturdy helmet is one of the most vital pieces of personal protective equipment that a wildland firefighter owns. As such, all firefighters should invest in a robust helmet and make an effort to care for it properly by conducting regular inspections and cleanings.
Muscle sprains are another common injury that wildland firefighters face. Muscle sprains generally occur in the lower back or in the back of one’s thigh. A muscle sprain is when a muscle or the tissue connecting the muscle to the bone stretches too far or tears. Resulting symptoms generally include inflammation, pain, and limited mobility.
One of the main reasons why muscle sprains are so prevalent among wildland firefighters is due to the uneven terrain they must traverse for miles on end in high-stress scenarios. For one, the rugged landscape can increase one’s potential for slips and falls which often lead to muscle sprains. In addition, the extremely physically-demanding job responsibilities can also place one’s muscles under a lot of stress and ultimately lead the muscle to tear.
While this injury may seem minor compared to some of the others on this list, keep in mind that having one’s mobility limited while fighting fires out in extremely remote locations can bring on a host of other safety risks as well.
One of the most effective ways to prevent muscle sprains while on the job is to adhere to a strict aerobic and muscular endurance fitness routine. By maintaining optimal physical fitness, one’s body can better adapt to the highly strenuous job responsibilities of the role.
Another prevalent injury that wildland firefighters incur is crush injuries. These injuries may result from collapsing trees, fallen branches, or rock slides which cause part of one’s body to get crushed under a heavy object. These injuries often result in broken bones; however, they may only injure the muscle.
Impact injuries refer to injuries caused due to a collision of one’s body with a moving or stationary object. In the field of wildland firefighting, impact injuries often result from vehicle collisions or falling debris. Like many of the other injuries on this list, wearing proper personal protective equipment is one of the most effective ways to prevent impact injuries. In addition, adhering to the 18 Watch Out Situations, 10 Standard Firefighting Orders, and other essential safety protocols will increase one’s awareness of their surroundings, avoid dangerous scenarios, and further help reduce one’s risk.
At The Supply Cache, we recognize the incredibly brave and selfless service that wildland firefighters provide, and we’re committed to doing our part to help keep them safe. For this reason, we have developed an extensive inventory of exceptionally high-quality wildland firefighting gear and equipment. Our industry-leading innovative solutions include wildland firefighter boots, first aid supplies, and personal protective equipment. To find the equipment and supplies that you require to minimize key safety risks on the job, shop our substantial online collection today.