|Title||Simulated Self-Paced Wildfire Suppression Work in Different Thermal Conditions|
|Year of Publication||2015|
|Academic Department||Deakin University|
|Number of Pages||236|
|Keywords||Decision making, emergency management., exposure, firefighter, fires, temperature|
There is a substantial body of research investigating the influence of ambient temperature on sport and exercise performance. However, research investigating the effect of heat on the performance of manual-handling work, as performed by personnel across many physically demanding occupations, is relatively scarce. Wildland firefighters are commonly tasked with performing manual-handling work under conditions of high ambient heat, and will likely do so more frequently under a continually warming climate. Heat-related illness also currently represents a substantial threat to the safety and wellbeing of wildland firefighters when on duty. Understanding the role of ambient heat in moderating firefighter performance may be important for wildland fire agencies in forecasting the effectiveness of their workforce. Further, quantifying the physiological response of firefighters working in such conditions may assist in preventing heat-related incidents on the fireground. Therefore, assessing the influence of hot ambient conditions on the work output of wildland firefighters, as well as the magnitude of their thermoregulatory and cardiovascular response, was the primary focus of this thesis. Due to the inherent variability of wildfire behaviour, and the subsequent difficulty in measuring work performance in an operational setting, the current program of research utilised high-fidelity work simulations to assess changes in work output in response to ambient heat. Study 1 investigated the self-selected work output of wildland firefighters in both temperate (18°C) and hot (32°C) ambient conditions over a six-hour simulated shift, and indices of thermal stress (e.g., core temperature) and exertion (e.g., heart rate) were measured. Study 2 reported the cumulative effect of ambient heat on the work performance and physiological response of wildland firefighters performing three consecutive days of simulated wildfire suppression. Finally, Study 3 measured the self-selected work output and thermoregulatory responses of wildland firefighters performing a raking task in both 45°C and 18°C conditions. The adaptive behaviours of firefighters (e.g., in ad-libitum fluid intake) were also documented during all studies. Collectively, the results from these studies provides novel insight into the operational effectiveness of wildland firefighters under a range of ambient conditions, and their concurrent physiological and behavioural responses.