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Aust Fam Physician. 2007 Dec;36(12):994-7.

Fighting with fire--how bushfire suppression can impact on fire fighters' health.

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Department of Physiology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria.



Each year bushfire threatens Australia's rural, forest, and urban-rural areas. Australia's rural fire fighters work to curtail this threat in hot, smoky conditions, often at risk to their physical health. General practitioners, especially in rural areas, can help preserve the health of fire fighters during the fire season by understanding the stressors they face on the fireground.


This article outlines how the key fireground stressors of work intensity and duration, heat (from the weather, the fire, and the fire fighter's own exertion) and smoke impact on the health of fire fighters. Practical advice for GPs treating Australia's rural fire fighters is also included.


General practitioners can help preserve fire fighters' health during bushfire suppression in a number of ways, including: identifying fire fighters at risk of cardiac distress during physical labour and educating them about the early warning signs; advocating regular exercise; discouraging smoking; and promoting the benefits of maintaining fluid, carbohydrate, and electrolyte levels during a shift.

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