Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Wildland Firefighter Health
Heat accumulation from wearing personal protective equipment can result in the development of heat-related illnesses. This study aimed to investigate factors of heat stress with and without a US standard issue wildland firefighter helmet. Ten male subjects finished a 90-min exercise protocol in a heat chamber (35°C and 30% relative humidity), with standard issue meta-aramid shirt and pants and a cotton t-shirt, and either with or without a wildland firefighter helmet. A randomised crossover design was implemented, with a minimum 2-week washout period. Heart rate, physiologic strain index, perceived head heat, head heat and skin blood flow of the head and neck were measured. At the conclusion of the 90-min trial, heart rate, physiological strain index, core temperature, rating of perceived exertion and perceived head heat showed a main effect of time (P < 0.05). Perceived head heat and head heat exhibited a main effect of trial (P < 0.05). The change in physiologic strain was positively correlated with the change in skin blood flow of the head (r = 0.72, P = 0.02). These data suggest that the current wildland firefighter helmet contributes to heat accumulation. The design of the wildland firefighter helmet lacks ventilation, which, from these data, may result in metabolic alterations and perceived discomfort.