Arduous Duty

Using Three Data Sources to Create a Single Wildland Fire Fighter On-Duty Death Surveillance System
Wildland fire fighters are required to pass an “arduous duty” physical fitness test annually to help ensure that they are prepared for the physical nature of the job. Unlike structural fire fighting, wildland fire fighting often requires long work shifts that may last up to 14 continuous days, and often takes place in environments that are challenging with regard to temperature and terrain. Because of this difference, researchers cannot assume that study findings among structural fire fighters would apply to wildland fire fighters. Because wildland fire fighter-specific fatality data are often sparse or combined with information on all U.S. fire fighter deaths, NIOSH researchers had trouble answering our partners' most basic on-duty fatality questions such as:
•What injuries are killing wildland fire fighters on the job?
•How many wildland fire fighters are dying from cardiac events on the job?
•Why do different agencies report different numbers of fatalities per year? and
•What can we do to prevent on-duty deaths?
These types of questions led the NIOSH Wildland Fire Program to create a surveillance system to track wildland fire fighter fatalities in the U.S., which proved to be an “arduous duty” of its own.


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