Researchers at two universities – one in B.C. and one in Alberta – are studying the mental health effects of fighting wildfires.
On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced that the B.C. Wildfire Service has provided $305,000 to help fund research projects at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George and the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
Dr. Chelsea Pelletier, the project’s leader and an assistant professor at UNBC’s School of Health Sciences, said much less research is done on wildland firefighters compared to other first responders.
“Wildland firefighters work really hard – especially over the past few summers, we’ve seen that very much in northern B.C. – so we kind of owe it to them to more better understand what health risks are associated with that,” she said.
The project will look at the existing body of research and knowledge, identify any gaps in that knowledge, and identify any improvements from around the world that could be implemented right away in B.C.
The team will also interview employees of the BC Wildfire Service and wildland firefighters themselves to see what they feel is important for their mental health.
The final report, expected next summer, will help BC Wildfire establish a long-term research strategy for worker health, the province said.