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Workplace injuries: Fighting wildfires is a hazardous occupation

Thousands of firefighters are fighting the devastating wildfires in California, putting their lives on the line to save others. Fighting fires is much more complicated than many people might think. A California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection spokesperson explained the different operations that are involved, and the risks of workplace injuries the firefighters have to face. Changing weather plays a significant role in strategizing, and humidity and temperature are monitored continuously along with wind direction and strength.

Cal Fire says ground crews maintain the front lines of the fire with support by water-carrying fire engines. Simultaneously, hand crews clear the brush that fuels the fire. They use axes and chainsaws to cut vegetation. These crews form the fire line and work to slow down the spread of the fire. In accessible areas, hand crews use bulldozers to clear the brush.

Another division is the aircrews that battle the fires from above. The fleets consist of large planes fitted with water tanks and helicopters that carry massive buckets. The air tanker planes drop water -- and sometimes fire retardant on the fires. The helicopters scoop from 300 to 800 gallons at a time from sources like ponds, lakes, pools and even the ocean with their buckets and use that to douse fires.

Every step of the way is hazardous, and even when a fire seems to be extinguished, it can come alive again. Firefighters face significant risks of workplace injuries, and they may find comfort knowing that the California workers' compensation insurance program offers benefits that will cover medical expenses and lost income. Victims of debilitating injuries may receive additional benefits, and an attorney with experience in this field of the law can assist in the claims process.

Source: CNN, "It's not just spraying water: How the pros fight wildfires", Dakin Andone, Dec. 9, 2017

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