Firefighter diagnosed with Rhabdo hours after PT on first day of training

A firefighter on the Tatanka Hotshots in South Dakota was admitted to a hospital hours after completing a long run on the crew’s first day of the 2016 fire season. The run began at 10 a.m. on May 2 and later in the day he complained of severe cramping. The diagnosis was Rhabdomyolysis, sometimes shortened to Rhabdo, and he remains hospitalized as of May 6 according to the “72-hour notification”. A Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA) team will in-brief on May 9.

Employee's left leg after 5 surgeries
Complications from Rhabdo. Another firefighter’s left leg after 5 surgeries in 2011. Photo from the FLA.

Rhabdo is the breakdown of muscle fibers resulting in the release of muscle contents (myoglobin) into the bloodstream which are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.

Left untreated, or if not treated early enough, rhabdo can lead to irreversible muscle damage, permanent disability, kidney failure possibly requiring lifelong dialysis, and even death. Up to 8% of cases of rhabdomyolysis are fatal according to a NIOSH report. And all of this can be the result of exercising hard or engaging in a strenuous fire assignment if other risk factors are also present.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged rhabdomyolysis.

The Missoula Technology Development Center recently released this publication about Rhabdo, and the NWCG issued this poster.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Firefighter diagnosed with Rhabdo hours after PT on first day of training”

  1. For the respect of all our firefighters, for how hard they work, for how much they sacrifice, how could their leaders lead them to this in training? When someone asks for water, give them water. Take care of those who take care of others. Shame on the leaders Tatanka Hot Shots and the US Forest Service. These men are your soldiers. Don’t let the community down.


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