Via the Toronto Star, a Canadian Press report: Fort McMurray firefighters expect lives will be cut short by smoke-related illness. Excerpt:
Many Fort McMurray firefighters, unable to wear their usual air masks while battling a giant wildfire that attacked the northern Alberta city, are being screened for health problems because they spent several days breathing in hazardous smoke.
Some of the 180 crew have developed a persistent cough, says firefighter Nick Waddington, president of the Fort McMurray branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Results of lung and blood tests will be private. But Waddington predicts the firefighters will need ongoing support and possible treatment for serious illnesses over the next 10 to 20 years.
“Realistically, a lot of our guys, their lives are going to be shortened because of this incident,” Waddington says bluntly. “When you compound that with everything that we’re going to have in our careers, we’re definitely going to be in a high risk.”
The fire spread into the oilsands capital on May 3 and forced more than 80,000 people to leave. It destroyed roughly 2,400 homes and other buildings — about one-tenth of the city. Firefighters were credited with saving the rest of the community.
Municipal crews were assisted in the following days by firefighters from other communities and wildland firefighters from across Canada and other countries — about 2,200 in all.
But the hometown crew was there first, working around the clock, when the forest fire morphed into an urban blaze and moved from timber to buildings with toxins in vinyl siding, treated lumber and furniture.
Firefighters “would have been out there for long periods of time sucking in the smoke,” says Fort McMurray fire Chief Darby Allen.