Wildfire news, November 11, 2008

Large fire in Brazil

Illegally set fires have burned about half of Chapada Diamantina National Park in Brazil. Over 75,000 acres of forest have burned so far in the park. Nearly 500 firefighters are working on the fires which began in July, probably caused by ranchers clearing land for grazing. The region was once a rich source of diamonds, but now depends on ecotourism.

Update on pilot who survived helicopter crash

Wildfire today covered the August 5 helicopter crash that killed nine firefighters here. There were four survivors, including co-pilot Bill Coultas of Cave Junction, Oregon. OregonLive.com has an update on his struggle to recover from his serious burns. You should be warned that reading the article can be difficult, as it describes in some detail the burn treatment that Mr. Coultas went through and is still enduring.

Firefighters should visit a burn unit

The EMT training I went through in San Diego included 24 hours of practical experience observing patient treatment in emergency rooms. While at University Hospital I became familiar with their burn unit and for the first time learned about the treatment and recovery process for victims of extensive third degree burns. The hospital personnel have to treat and debride, or clean, the burned areas on a regular basis. The process can be so painful that patients may be given morphine, or sometimes even a general anesthetic while it is done. This can go on for weeks or months.

This was early in my firefighting career. After seeing the suffering that burn victims experience, I made a pledge to myself that I would do whatever it took to prevent myself and firefighters under my supervision from ever ending up in a burn unit. Thankfully, I met this objective. After fighting wildfires for 20 years in southern California, and 13 years in other parts of the country, the most serious injury anyone working for me ever had was an ACL, a knee injury, when a very small female firefighter was carrying a heavy hose pack up a steep hill.

Every firefighter should take a tour through a burn unit or visit a firefighter undergoing treatment for burns. It may lengthen their career.

A little known fact

According to the diary of a passenger on the Mayflower, the ship landed at Plymouth Rock rather than continuing to their planned destination, Virginia, because of a lack of beer.

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