In the journal Wildfire (Sharkey, et al., 2008, p. 10), the writer points out that the MTDC and the University of Montana researchers have measured the aerobic fitness of IMT members, checked they physically and have identified the "presence of risk factors for coronary artery disease and inflammatory markers in blood samples," Sharkey points out. Clearly, if a firefighter is a risk to have a heart attack, it makes sense to either help improve his health, or prevent him from engaging in the stressful work that firefighting entails.
For example, of the 56 IMT members that were surveyed in 2007, thirty percent of them reported that "above average or severe stress was associated with their IMT position," according to Sharkey. The job of the Forest Service and managers at the regional level is to work towards reducing the risks that come IMT members are taking every time they go into a wildland fire situation.
"Firefighters, especially those in supervisory and Incident Management Team positions, often have problems with stress, fatigue, and mental overload," according to Phase III of the Wildland Firefighter Safety Awareness Study, and quoted by Sharkey. The report / study goes on to assert that there is "little training or advice given on how to mentally prepare oneself for what is ahead" and how to prevent the impact of fatigue from becoming overwhelming while in the line of duty (Sharkey, p. 11).
The point here is that up until recently, the Forest Service and other agencies have not had a good preventative policy to address the stress that firefighters face. It seems remarkable that this aspect of the job hasn't received the attention it deserves, and Sharkey explains that the MTDC and other support systems for the Forest Service will pay more attention to the psychological distress that results from stress. This is certainly an advance for firefighters, especially if the program is carried out nationally and all firefighters in the wildlands are carefully screened before they launch themselves into a battle against a blaze.
In the process of their work, firefighters often come into contact -- or nearly so -- with downed power lines. The Wildfire magazine points out that one of the recent advances is a "AC voltage detector" that gives the firefighter a warning "in the presence of open electrical fields from down power lines" (Wildfire, 2008). The firefighter wears the detector on the outside of his protective clothing, and it warns him when there is dangerous electricity nearby.
Meanwhile, "New technology is revolutionizing how wildfires are fought," according to James Hagengruber of Firehouse magazine (2008). Satellites with "thermal-imaging cameras snoop deep into the backcountry looking for hidden fires," Hagengruber explains. The satellites with the technology that can spot fires "pass over North America four times daily, beaming back their data to a receiver resembling a large golf ball on the roof of the Missoula fire lab," Hagengruber writes. Previously, aerial reconnaissance flights were the main way to spot fires in the wildlands, but today's satellite technologies "…are more accurate, dependable, and timely," according to Wei Min Hao, a MIT graduate that developed the software for those satellites (Hagengruber, p. 2).
In conclusion, it is a given that there will always be fires in the wildlands of America. Some of those fires perform useful tasks in terms of natural world conservation; other wildland fires are terrible destructive, and the men and women who fight those fires must know that they are working with the most advanced equipment and technologies. The Forest Service is obliged to make sure their firefighters are healthy and safe, because the public, and the wildlife, depend on their skills and energy.
Bushey, Chuck. (2008). Wildfire: Technically Speaking. Wildfire Magazine. Retrieved October
2, 2011, from http://www.widlfiremag.com/mag/technically_speaking/indes.html.
Hagengruber, James. (2007). Wildland Firefighting: New Ideas Save Lives. Firehouse.
Retrieved October 2, 2011, from http://www.firehouse.com.