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Kiam Padamsey, Ruth Wallace, Adelle Liebenberg, Martyn Cross, Jacques Oosthuizen
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Wildland Firefighter Health

NRFSN number: 26473
FRAMES RCS number: 69222
Record updated:

Background: In Western Australia, the issue of bushfires (wildfires) poses a persistent health risk to both volunteer and career forestry firefighters, populations that have been historically understudied.

Aims: This descriptive qualitative study aimed to examine firefighters’ level of understanding concerning hazardous exposures, their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols and their decontamination practices.

Methods: Guided by the socioecological model, 23 semi-structured interviews were conducted with firefighters representing both volunteer and forestry sectors.

Key results: Results indicate a gap in knowledge regarding the health risks associated with bushfire-generated smoke and contaminants among volunteer firefighters. Forestry firefighters, conversely, showed a greater awareness of these risks. Social dynamics, such as peer pressure, were identified as historical deterrents to PPE use, although recent trends indicate positive change. Forestry firefighters also highlighted systemic shortcomings, including inadequate provision of respiratory protection and lack of decontamination facilities for cleaning themselves and their PPE.

Conclusion: This study underscores the critical need for educational initiatives to address these gaps in understanding, along with organisational reforms to promote a culture encouraging PPE use and to provide essential resources for effective decontamination.

Implications: This research emphasises that a multi-level approach is essential for safeguarding the health of firefighters in bushfire-prone environments.


Padamsey, Kiam; Wallace, Ruth; Liebenberg, Adelle; Cross, Martyn; Oosthuizen, Jacques. 2024. Fighting fire and fumes: risk awareness and protective practices among western Australian firefighters. International Journal of Wildland Fire 33:WF23147.

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