Research links wildfire smoke with cardiac arrest in men

smoke prescribed fire firefighter

A firefighter is enveloped in smoke while working on a prescribed fire in Hot Springs, SD, March 30, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Researchers in Australia have found a link between smoke from bushfires and cardiac arrest in men over 35 in the population of metropolitan Melbourne. We would like to see a study done of wildland firefighters who breathe far more smoke than the residents of Melbourne.

Below is an excerpt from

Men over 35 have an increased risk of cardiac arrest if exposed to poor quality air from bushfires, a new study has found.

Monash University research using data from Ambulance Victoria’s Victorian Ambulance Cardiac Arrest Registry (VACAR) investigated the links between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and bushfire smoke exposure in metropolitan Melbourne during the 2006-07 bushfire season.

The study, published in the latest edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, found an association between exposure to forest fire smoke and an increase in the rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Monash University researchers led by Dr Martine Dennekamp, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, saw greater increases in the number of men over 35 years old experiencing cardiac arrests but did not see a significant association in women over 35.

Dr Dennekamp said exposure to smoke from forest fires was a significant health issue in many countries, and it was important to raise community awareness.

“The problem is likely to get worse in the future, as we can expect fires to become both more frequent and more severe,” Dr Dennekamp said.

The state and federal governments not only employ the most wildland firefighters in the United States, but they would also be the ones to fund research like this. One would think they would have a disincentive to discover environmental conditions on the job that adversely affect the health of their employees. Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer, right? There have been some papers written and some research has been completed on wildfire smoke, but what is needed is a long term study on wildland firefighters conducted by epidemiologists. Something we first called for in 2010.

A very well known and respected Hotshot Superintendent advised me to frequently complete a CA-1 accident form after breathing lots of smoke on a fire. If you don’t, perhaps 10, 20, or 30 years later it might be hard to convince your employer that one or more of the following conditions were caused by your job: leukemia, testicular cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, colorectal cancer, and non-Hodgkins’s lymphoma. All of those are recognized by the British Columbia government as an occupational hazard for firefighters; they are called presumptive cancers. But the United States government does not.

Other articles on Wildfire Today tagged cancer and firefighter health.


Students develop device to suppress a fire using sound

Two students at George Mason University have developed a device that can put out a fire using sound. So far they have only tried it on burning rubbing alcohol in a skillet, so the usefulness on solid fuels is still in question.

However, in an article in the Washington Post, they mention forest fires:

Although the students originally envisioned their device as a tool to attack kitchen fires and to eliminate the toxic monoammonium phosphate used in commercial fire extinguishers, they can see more uses: in confined areas in space, or wide areas outdoors, such as forest fires. Not having to use water or foam would be a bonus in many situations.

Kenneth E. Isman, a clinical professor in the University of Maryland’s fire-protection engineering department, was quoted in the article:

The project also would have to address different types of fires — solid combustibles such as wood, paper or metals, or electrical equipment — and keep a fire from reigniting.

“One of the problems with sound waves is that they do not cool the fuel,” Isman said. “So even if you get the fire out, it will rekindle if you don’t either take away the fuel or cool it.”

DARPA has also experimented with suppressing fire using sound. The video below is only nine seconds long.

DARPA summarized their results:

IFS Phase II was completed in December 2011. IFS performers succeeded in demonstrating the ability to suppress, extinguish and manipulate small flames locally using electric and acoustic suppression techniques. However, it was not clear from the research how to effectively scale these approaches to the levels required for defense applications.

Remarking on the overall impact of the IFS program, Matthew Goodman, DARPA program manager, said, “We have shown that the physics of combustion still has surprises in store for us. Perhaps these results will spur new ideas and applications in combustion research.”

We have run across many out-of-the-box ideas for suppressing fires, including, an electric wand, a truck that puts out fires without water, a fire extinguisher bomb, dropping water in containers that when empty weigh 100 pounds, a disposable air tanker, a truck that dispenses dry chemical to suppress wildfires, a shoulder-fired rocket that launches a fire hose and nozzle into a structure, and suppressing a fire with directional explosives.

Meanwhile, wildland firefighters still put out fires with sharpened pieces of metal attached to the end of sticks.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.


USFS engine and two ATVs stolen in Oregon

(UPDATED at 5:37 p.m. MDT, March 25)

USFS stolen engine

The U.S. Forest Service is offering a $5,000 reward for help in finding the thieves who stole an engine, two ATV’s, 10 chainsaws and other equipment late Thursday night from a USFS facility in Cave Junction, Oregon. The engine, damaged, was found, but the value of the stolen and damaged machinery is more than $122,000.


(Originally published at 12:05 a.m., March 25, 2015)

stolen USFS engine

A U.S. Forest Service engine and two ATVs were stolen recently from a USFS facility in Cave Junction, Oregon. The engine was found Friday morning, stuck, and missing much of its compliment of firefighting and medical equipment.

The ATVs are still missing.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Perry and Ken.


Teenage girl found guilty of starting Cocos Fire in San Diego County

The teenage girl on trial for starting the Cocos Fire north of San Diego was found guilty Tuesday morning. The prosecution’s case hinged on expert testimony from a CAL FIRE investigator who said a burning ember from a fire the girl admitted starting in her back yard traveled 0.44 miles to ignite the fire that eventually burned 1,995 acres and destroyed 36 homes in San Marcos, California.

Conflicting expert testimony from a retired CAL FIRE investigator who said an ember from the girl’s fire could not have traveled that far apparently was discounted by the judge, who ruled in the trial. There was no jury, because the defendant was a juvenile — 13 years old when the fire started in May, 2014.

The girl told investigators she “didn’t want to kill anybody” — only to “see what would happen” when she set the first of two fires in her backyard, according to an audio tape played in court on Monday.

The damages caused by the fire amounted to about $10 million. Sentencing is set for April 15 in juvenile court.

map Cocos Fire

Map showing the Cocos Fire. The dark red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:27 p.m. PDT, May 15, 2014. The location of the icons can be as much as a mile in error.

Articles at Wildfire Today tagged Cocos Fire.