Above: Firefighters arrive at the White Tail Fire in South Dakota, March 8, 2017. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Researchers are finding it difficult to conduct research on the long-term effects of exposure to smoke from wildfires. Last year in some areas of the Northern Rockies in the United States and Canada residents suffered through one of the worst seasons of smoke in a while.
Below are excerpts from an article at Pacific Standard. Most of it is about the effects on residents, but it also mentions firefighters.
“Seeley Lake was the worst smoke event we have ever seen, and I think possibly has been seen, at least in the United States and Canada,” [Sarah] Coefield says. “Every single day, the smoke is hazardous. I’d wake up every hour at night, and check the smoke, and then fret about Seeley Lake. What do I say in the morning? ‘It’s terrible. Again.'”
Then there is the difficulty of securing the financial resources to undertake a long-term study. Even researching the effects of smoke on firefighters—who, with their regular and intense exposures to wildfires, are among the worst affected—can be difficult, says John Balmes, professor of environmental health sciences at the Berkeley School of Public Health.
“Occupational studies of wildland firefighters are a problem because it’s a workforce that tends to turn over a lot,” he says. For one study, he followed a group of firefighters across the fire season to monitor their exposure, but didn’t get the funding needed to follow up on their health the next year—a progression that could have shed light on the long-term effects of smoke.