Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Smoke & Air Quality
Wildland Firefighter Health
Wildland firefighters are exposed to smoke-containing particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while suppressing wildfires. From 2015 to 2017, the U.S. Forest Service conducted a field study collecting breathing zone measurements of PM 4 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤4 μm) on wildland firefighters from different crew types and while performing various fire suppression tasks on wildfires. Emission ratios of VOC (parts per billion; ppb): PM1 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤1 μm; mg/m3 ) were calculated using data from a separate field study conducted in summer 2018, the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN) Campaign. These emission ratios were used to estimate wildland firefighter exposure to acrolein, benzene, and formaldehyde. Results of this field sampling campaign reported that exposure to PM 4 and VOC varied across wildland firefighter crew type and job task. Type 1 crews had greater exposures to both PM 4 and VOCs than type 2 or type 2 initial attack crews, and wildland firefighters performing direct suppression had statistically higher exposures than those performing staging and other tasks (mean differences = 0.82 and 0.75 mg/m3 ; 95% confidence intervals = 0.38−1.26 and 0.41−1.08 mg/m3 , respectively). Of the 81 personal exposure samples collected, 19% of measured PM 4 exposures exceeded the recommended National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group occupational exposure limit (0.7 mg/m3 ). Wildland fire management should continue to find strategies to reduce smoke exposures for wildland firefighters.