As wildfire season draws to a close and states across the country are regrouping and revitalizing burned areas in their states, it’s important that we remember and honor the firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep people and homes safe during those fires. While we all know the obvious risks involved with fighting fire in these remote areas what about the risks we can’t see?
Being a wildland firefighter or any kind of firefighter for that matter comes with health risks. The obvious ones come when fighting a live fire, the less obvious ones show up after. These risks can include several different kinds of cancer, PTSD, toxins in the air they breathe, particles in the lungs, and so many others. Awareness around these issues has been slow for the last several years but now more than ever we need to not only educate the public but break the stigma around physical and mental health around being a firefighter.
According to the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters),
New research reveals firefighters and paramedics are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at rates comparable to combat veterans and developing cancer in far greater numbers than the general public. However, neither of these hidden hazards is adequately addressed in current protocols for treatment and remediation.
While communities are beyond thankful for the work that firefighters do to keep the communities safe, what in addition can we be doing to support their overall health? Here’s what organizations across the country are putting in place to help take care of those who put everything on the line.
One of the first things that needs to start changing is the conversation around PTSD. This takes place at home, out in the field and in the station. Having open, honest conversations about the things you experience and how that makes you feel is the first step. Chances are if you feel a certain way about a situation, someone else feels the same and needs someone to talk to.
Another thing that is taking place across the US and Canada are states enacting “presumptive cancer laws that allow for greater access to disability coverage for firefighters stricken with the disease.” This would allow for firefighters that have had occupational exposure to be further supported when they are out of work due to occupational hazards.
Of all the things that we can be doing to help firefighters across the country, one small thing that each and every one of us can do is, thank them. Thank them for their service and commitment, for giving up time and holidays with their family, for putting their minds and bodies through things that we can’t even imagine. Another thing you can do is buy a case of Coors Banquet. For the month of the September, Coors Banquet teams up with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to support their cause and their firefighters. Do your part, thank a firefighter and drink a cold, Coors Banquet.
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