October 11, 2019 / Mark Ames

Fall Means Pumpkin-Spiced Heaven for Some, Wildfires for Others

Fall is a treasured time of year. For many parts of the country, fall means cooler temperatures, shorter days, a panorama of motley-colored leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything. (I had my first pumpkin-spiced latte of the season just last week!) Yet, while some people are cozying up to fireplaces, others are preparing for an annual spike in wildfire activity. Although fires can occur in any part of the nation, both California and the southeastern United States experience annual heightened periods of wildfire activity between October and January. Already this year there have been more than 40,000 fires, which have consumed more than 4.3 million acres and presented a multitude of hazards for workers and the public alike. Examples of wildfire hazards include:

  • Heat stress
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Psychological stress
  • Physical hazards (for example, sharps, unstable floors, ceilings or walls)
  • Biological hazards
  • Chemical hazards

Exposure to smoke is also a significant hazard, which can result in irritated eyes, nose, and throat, and aggravate heart and lung diseases. Those with asthma or immune system disorders and those who are pregnant are also at higher risk of adverse exposure reactions, as are children, teenagers, and the elderly.

To help address these hazards, AIHA has launched a public engagement campaign that contains useful information for worker health and safety professionals and the public before, during, and after a wildfire incident has occurred. AIHA is also encouraging members and the public to contact their governor and urge them to support and help raise awareness about safe wildfire cleanup and recovery. To learn more and take action, please visit AIHA’s Wildfire Disaster Recovery Center or contact me by email or (703) 846-0730.

Mark Ames

Mark Ames is AIHA’s director of Government Relations.


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