Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify wildland firefighters’ (WLFFs) self-reported hydration and nutrition practices, they perceived may impact health and safety while on an active fire assignment in the United States.
Study Design, Setting, Participants: Using an online format, WLFFs (n=422) were asked two open-ended questions and five demographic questions. One question asked participants to indicate nutrition and hydration factors that contribute to common health and safety accidents. The second question asked participants whether they had additional comments related to health and safety.
Outcome Measures and Analysis: Descriptive data was tabulated for the demographic questions, and content analysis of narrative text was used to identify major themes.
Results: WLFFs consisted primarily of firefighter crew members (n=302, 72%), and managerial positions (n=120, 28.1%). The majority had a college degree or higher (n=261, 61.8%). Five overarching themes were identified in WLFFs’ perceptions of the nutrition and hydration factors that influenced health and safety: practices that cause dehydration (e.g. caffeine intake); challenges and successes with hydration and nutrition; food quality as a priority (e.g. increasing nutrient dense foods and decreasing processed and convenient foods); the impact of sleep on overall diet; and WLFFs’ lack of knowledge of healthful nutrition and hydration practices.
Conclusions and Implications: WLFFs reported nutrition and hydration practices that they perceived contribute to health and safety while on a fire assignment. WLFFs responses indicate a greater understanding of nutrition and hydration practices is needed to minimize accidents during fire operations, and to establish nutrition and hydration guidelines for agencies that fight fire.