Planned burning is a preventative strategy aimed at decreasing fuel loads to reduce the severity of future wildfire events. During planned burn operations, firefighters can work long shifts. Furthermore, remote burning locations may require firefighters to sleep away from home between shifts. The existing evidence surrounding firefighters’ sleep during such operations is exclusively anecdotal. The aims of the study were to describe firefighters’ sleep during planned burn operations and evaluate the impact of the key operational factors (shift start time, shift length and sleeping location) that may contribute to inadequate sleep. Thirty-three salaried firefighters were recruited from Australia’s fire agencies and sleep was measured objectively using wrist actigraphy for four weeks. All variables were examined in two conditions: (1) burn days, and (2) non-burn days. Time in bed, total sleep time, sleep latency and sleep efficiency were evaluated objectively. Subjective reports of pre- and post-sleep fatigue, sleep location, sleep quality, sleep quantity, number of times woken and sleep timing were also recorded. Analyses revealed no differences in measures of sleep quantity and quality when comparing non-burn and burn days. Total sleep time was less when planned burn shifts were >12 h. However, on burn days, work shift start time as well as sleeping location did not impact firefighters’ sleep quantity. Self-reported levels of pre- and post-sleep fatigue were greater on burn days compared to non-burn days. These findings indicate that sleep quantity and quality are not compromised during planned burn operations <12 h in duration.
Vincent GE, Aisbett B, Hall SJ, and Ferguson SA. 2016. Sleep quantity and quality is not compromised during planned burn shifts of less than 12 h. Chronobiology International 33 (6): 657-666 . https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2016.1167734