Wildfires continue to make their way through the state of Texas, and the firefighters, both volunteers, professionals, and other firefighters from all over the United States are doing their best to contain them. Thousands of persons have been left homeless, having been left with only the clothes on their backs. The brave personnel who have been fighting wildfire after wildfire must be totally exhausted, but they keep going back to answer the calls for help.
Workers are exposed to many obstacles, such as electrical hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, lifting, extreme heat, respiratory problems, snakes, rodents and insects, and slips, trips and falls. They also must bear the extreme weight of the protective clothing that they wear. Depending upon the site’s job tasks, listed are some of the personal protective equipment that they must use:
- Disposable cut/abrasive resistant work gloves.
- Chemical gloves.
- Fully enclosed goggles (best for ash) or safety glasses.
- Ear protection in noisy areas.
- Head protection.
Fire fighters must be medically cleared to wear the correct respirator. Other instructions per OSHA standard (29 CFR 1910.134), include:
- Proper training.
- Fit testing for respirator.
- Inspect respirator each time it is put on and taken off.
- Perform a user seal check every time it is donned.
- Clean the elastomeric respirator at least once a day in accordance with manufacturers recommendations.
- Store elastomeric respirators in a clean bag.
- Stop work and retrieve a new one should the respirator become damaged or fail to function.
Firefighters are also exposed to the fire retardants that are dropped by planes. Desperate measures are demanded to try to extinguish or control the strength that these fires contain because of the extreme drought for the past eleven months of this year in the state. So far, approximately 1,600 homes have been lost, (the count changes daily), and more than 3.7 million acres have burned. Firefighters have saved countless homes. Four persons have died as a result of the fires.
Once the fire is over, firefighters and other workers may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. Some, such as utility restoration, cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, and search and rescue, should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience. Because of demand, many other community volunteers will be involved with cleanup, and should take the same precautions as trained workers.
Please think positive and say a prayer for rain for those parts of our country that so desperately need it. There are some states who have had too much rain, so it seems to be “feast or famine” where the weather is concerned. The words “Thank You” cannot express the gratitude we owe our firefighters everywhere, every day – men and women who work so diligently to save homes, people, wildlife and land.
Source: OSHA, NIEHS, NIH