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Physical and thermal strain of firefighters according to the firefighting tactics used to suppress wildfires

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The aim of this study was to analyse the physiological strain of firefighters, using heart rate (HR) and core temperature, during real wildfire suppression according to the type of attack performed (direct, indirect or mixed). Threeintensity zones were established according to the HR corresponding to the ventilatory threshold (VT) and respiratory compensation threshold (RCT): zone 1, RCT. The exercise workload (training impulse (TRIMP)), the physiological strain index (PSI) and the cumulative heat strain index(CHSI) were calculated using the time spent in each zone, and the HR and core temperature, respectively. Significantly higher mean HR, time spent in Z2 and Z3 and TRIMP h−1 were found in direct and mixed versus indirect attacks. The highest PSI and CHSI were observed in the direct attack. In conclusion, exercise strain and combined thermal strain, but not core temperature during wildfire suppression, are related to the type of attack performed.

Statement of relevance: Our findings demonstrated that wildfire firefighting is associated with high physiological demands, which vary significantly depending on the tactics chosen for performing the task. These results should be kept in mind when planning programmes to improve wildland firefighters' physical fitness, which will allow improvement in their performance.
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Keywords: core temperature; exercise workload; heart rate; wildfire; wildland firefighter

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Physical Education and Sports,Institute of Biomedicine (IBIOMED), University of León, León, Spain 2: Empresa de Transformación Agraria, S.A. (TRAGSA)Madrid, Spain 3: Department of Exercise and Sport Science,University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La CrosseWI, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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