High work output combined with high ambient temperatures caused heat exhaustion in a wildland firefighter despite high fluid intake

John S. Cuddy, Brent C. Ruby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

The purpose of this case study is to examine the physiological/behavioral factors leading up to heat exhaustion in a male wildland firefighter during wildland fire suppression. The participant (24 years old, 173 cm, 70 kg, and 3 years firefighting experience) experienced heat exhaustion following 7 hours of high ambient temperatures and arduous work on the fire line during the month of August. At the time of the heat-related incident (HRI), core temperature was 40.1°C (104.2°F) and skin temperature was 34.4°C (93.9°F). His work output averaged 1067 counts·min-1 (arbitrary units for measuring activity) for the 7 hours prior to the HRI, a very high rate of work over an extended time period during wildfire suppression. In the 2.5 hours leading up to the heat incident, he was exposed to a mean ambient temperature of 44.6°C (112.3°F), with a maximum temperature of 59.7°C (139.5°F). He consumed an average of 840 mL · h-1 in the 7 hours leading up to the incident and took an average of 24 ± 11 drinks · h-1 (total of 170 drinks). The combined effects of a high work rate and high ambient temperatures resulted in an elevated core temperature and a higher volume and frequency of drinking than typically seen in this population, ultimately ending in heat exhaustion and removal from the fire line. The data demonstrate that heat-related incidents can occur even with aggressive fluid intake during wildland fire suppression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-125
Number of pages4
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Funding

Research funded by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Mineral Resources (manufacturers of Elete ). The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this publication are those of the authors and should not be construed as an official United States Forest Service position, policy, or decision unless so designated by other documentation.

FundersFunder number
United States Forest Service

    Keywords

    • fluid intake
    • heat exhaustion
    • wildland firefighters

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