Wildfires raging throughout the Yosemite region recently threatened many California residents. The risk to the public from these events is significant, but emergency response teams face even more danger than most citizens.
There are systems in place to manage risks and prevent injury to firefighters. Unfortunately, these systems are not perfect. This point was illustrated in a recent incident that led to the death of an experienced firefighter.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the event, which led to the on-the-job death of a 10-year veteran firefighter. As the headline of the article suggests, investigators discovered that the firefighter experienced three significant, site-specific equipment failures before the final and fatal accident. This raised questions, as job-related incidents often do, of the adequacy of extant safety regulations.
Wildfires are predictable insofar as they occur nearly every year, clearing millions of acres of forest across the USA. However, nobody could completely forecast the conditions on the ground when fighting a fire. This uncertainty often leads to several deaths per year, often due to equipment failure.
Wildfires are among the most dangerous types of conflagrations. The Chronicle article mentioned that four firefighters total were killed in the July 2018 fires. Data from the National Fire Protection Association 2016 report indicates that nearly half of all fire-ground deaths happened in wildland.
The most recent NFPA report touches on health risks for chronic workplace exposure, a subject applicable to a wide range of professions. Therefore, some jobs might turn out to be just as dangerous as fighting wildfires, depending on the level and type of toxic exposure involved in daily tasks.