Better protection needed for firefighters battling wildfires: expert

Firefighters fighting Canada’s wildfires are risking their lives to keep their communities safe, but they’re not protecting themselves, experts say.

The unpredictable nature of fires is a risk firefighters face on the job, but so is the risk of breathing toxic fumes, which the general public may be less likely to consider.

Neil McMillian, director of scientific research at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), told CTV’s Your Morning that these firefighters were exposed to a lot of smoke, and the effects of this exposure continued long after the war ended. said it was possible. Current wildfire season.

One problem, he said, is the lack of adequate protection.

“Our members are still relying on the same technology that cowboys of old used to keep dust off their faces. It does not provide respiratory protection,” he said.

Part of the problem, he said, is that wildfires are remote, and the equipment needs to be portable, wearable and work for a long period of time.

“Our members are working 10-hour, 12-hour, 24-hour shifts as well as day after day in some of these extremely demanding conditions,” McMillian said. “Developing something that can be used under those conditions and that can be tested for suitability for trucking in and out of these remote areas is difficult to develop and difficult to certify through regulatory bodies.”

A 2020 study by researchers at the University of the B.C. Fraser Valley Cancer was found to be the leading cause of death for all Canadian firefighters.

The researchers found that cancer was responsible for 85%, 88%, and 90% of deaths based on three separate cohorts that participated in the study.

“Many of these occupational cancers are associated with fire effluents and fumes that firefighters regularly inhale,” McMillian said.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gas particles and water vapor, says Health Canada’s website.. Pollutants include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and ozone.

Prolonged direct inhalation of smoke by firefighters has adverse health effects.

Firefighters have protective measures such as N95 masks and air purifiers, but McMillian says more needs to be done. Further equipment testing is underway that can withstand the harsh realities of fighting wildfires.

“This is not just a firefighter issue, it’s a community issue, a national issue,” McMillian said.

To watch the full interview, click the video at the top of this article.

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