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Wildland Firefighter Health & Safety Report

Issue No. 13

In This Issue
  • Featured Topic: Sleep
  • Research: Field Studies
  • Risk Management: Stress
  • Field Notes: Health Hazards of Smoke

This report, the 13th in a series, reviews activities related to the Missoula Technology and Development Center's (MTDC) project on wildland firefighter health and safety. The project focuses on three areas:

Work, rest, and fatigue: Determine work/rest guidelines, assignment length, and fatigue countermeasures for crews and overhead.

Energy and nutrition: Improve energy intake, nutrition, hydration, immune function, and health of wildland firefighters.

Fitness and work capacity: Use work capacity and medical standards to ensure the health, safety, and productivity of wildland firefighters.

This Issue

MTDC and cooperators at the University of Montana's Human Performance Laboratory have studied human factors related to wildland firefighting for many years. The featured topic of this report focuses on the influence of sleep on the health and performance of incident management teams and firefighters. Job-related stress can contribute to sleep loss and sleep disturbances.

The research section reviews project-related field studies conducted on wildland firefighters during the 2008 fire season, including shift food (small food items eaten throughout the shift rather than a standard lunch), incident management stress, and the influence of meals on muscle glycogen. The risk management section reviews recent information on stress management. The field notes section outlines recent activities related to the effect of smoke exposure on firefighter health.

Photo of a group of firefighters resting in the field to restore their alertness.
Naps restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes.

MTDC Work Continues

Brian Sharkey is completing 45 years of association with MTDC and wildland firefighters. The center's work in this area will continue with an outstanding crew. Joe Domitrovich will work at MTDC while he completes his Ph.D. at the University of Montana. Domitrovich is a firefighter with a master's degree in exercise physiology and experience conducting field studies on wildland firefighters. Cooperators at the University of Montana Human Performance Laboratory include Drs. Steve Gaskill, Brent Ruby, and Charlie Palmer (a sport psychologist and one-time smokejumper).