Fire/emergency medical services

As wildfires rage, report highlights dangers of aviation-related firefighting

Forest firefighting

Photo: photocdn6

Atlanta – Firefighters who battle wildfires from planes and helicopters need to adhere to strict safety guidelines, researchers urge in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC researchers outlined the dangers of aviation-related wildfire operations by analyzing wildland firefighter fatalities between 2000 and 2013. The researchers found that 78 out of 298 firefighter fatalities – 26.2 percent – involved aircraft crashes or smokejumper or rappelling operations.

Fifty-five percent of aircraft involved in fatalities were fixed-wing, while helicopters comprised the other 45 percent. More than two-thirds of the fatalities took place from June to September, with 31 percent occurring in August.

The researchers noted that the demand for aviation-related firefighting activities likely will increase as wildfires continue to become more common and more complex. Multiple agencies often are involved in fighting wildfires, and it is particularly important for groups to be able to communicate and work well together during critical moments.

“Stringent safety guidelines need to be followed during all phases of firefighting, including training exercises,” the researchers said.

The study was published July 31 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.