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Are our firefighters adequately protected?

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The extreme heat that hit Southern California at the end of June brought with it a series of wildfires, with the Associated Press reporting that about 770 homes in the city of Duarte at the foot of the San Gabriel mountains near Los Angeles were under evacuation orders.

The reason?

Two uncontained wildfires with a combined size of more than eight square miles. And it's the firefighters, of course, who are called in to battle these fires.

Smoke Dangers: Upper Respiratory Problems

Firefighters constantly put their own lives in danger when working to protect the lives and property of others. Smoke from large fires is one especially serious concern. According to the FireRescue 1 site, the 1987 wildfires in Northern California and the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park both raised concerns about how smoke from forest fires could hurt the health of firefighters. According to the story, many firefighters sought medical attention for upper respiratory problems after battling these blazes. In 1989, the National Wildlife Coordinating Group developed a study plan to determine both the immediate and long-term impact of exposure to smoke from forest fires.

The study found that smoke dangers were not as serious as other risks such as falling branches and rolling rocks, but that too much smoke inhalation could cause eye irritations, sore throats and coughs. The study found a small but significant decline in lung function that tended to reverse when firefighters are no longer exposed to the forest fire.

Risk of Cardiac Death

According to a story by Safety+Health, 68 firefighters died while on duty in 2015. The National Fire Protection Association said that 35 of the deaths were reported as sudden cardiac death, which remains the leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters. The association reported that during the last 10 years, sudden cardiac death has accounted for 42 percent of the deaths of on-duty firefighters.

Strains, Sprains, Infectious Disease

The National Fire Protection Association said that 63,350 firefighter injuries were reported in 2014. The association said that the number of firefighter injuries per 1,000 fires has remained relatively steady for the last two decades. Strain, sprain and muscular pain accounted for 53 percent of the major types of injuries that firefighters received during operations. Firefighters also reported 7,700 exposures to infectious diseases such as hepatitis and meningitis. The association also charted 18,500 documented exposures to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, chemicals, fumes and radioactive materials.

The message is clear: Fighting fires remains a dangerous job.

The firefighters who put their lives in danger need to seek legal help when they suffer injuries or when their health is compromised after exposure to dangerous fumes or chemicals. Our firm can help firefighters file and collect on disability insurance benefits claims.

One way to look at it is that firefighters are not adequately protected when insurance companies deny their justified disability claims.

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