With the growing concern for diseases that can be spread by insects such as the Zika and West Nile virus by mosquitos as well as Lymes disease by ticks, insect bites have become a growing safety concern for wildland firefighters, especially as we enter the warm summer months and growing populations of these insects does occur. A new twist in this safety issue is the safety of the wildland firefighter once insecticide is applied to their turn-outs/gear. A technical tip sheet provided by the US Forest Service provides some research information from the Missoula Technology and Development Center about the use of insecticides by wildland firefighters.
From my online research, I discovered that some insecticides are highly flammable and can actually lower the flame retardant factor in wildland firefighter’s clothing. According to an article that I read flash fires have been reported from the use of flammable insecticides applied. This can compromise firefighter safety. There are alternative types of insecticides that can be used. Firefighters need to take additional precautions when choosing insecticides that may not be applied directly to the skin.
According to the article, “It is important to check how your FR (Fire Rated) products have been made, what materials are used and to follow the proper procedures regarding appropriate maintenance to make sure they keep working effectively. This will ultimately work to keep your FR clothing in top shape so you can stay protected and safe.”
The NFPA is in the process of developing an initial draft document 1877 Standard for the Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Wildland Fire Fighting Clothing and Equipment. If you are interested in serving on the technical committee or would like to submit Public Inputs go to www.nfpa.org/1877 or please connect with the NFPA on the NFPA Exchange.
Photo from NFPA's Firewise Day submittals. Picture created by Faith Berry