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Nearly half of firefighter job-related deaths across the country are caused by sudden cardiac events, study finds

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — Nearly half of all fire department-related deaths across the country are caused by sudden cardiac deaths, according to a report.

The Springfield Fire Department says education is crucial in prevention.

Springfield Fire Department Division Chief Kelly Ash says physical fitness is also crucial, with the department devoting an hour a day to keeping firefighters in shape.

“Firefighting is often not a marathon. It’s a sprint,” says Division Chief Ash. “Our heart rate is at maximum. All our physical efforts to put out the fire or to rescue a victim.

Division Chief Ash says firefighters have between 40 and 50 pounds of gear, which causes their core body temperature to rise rapidly.

“On a hot day like this, our body can’t breathe,” says Division Chief Ash. “We can’t sweat. All that evaporation, which is the part that cools our bodies that doesn’t happen with all the firefighting equipment.

Ozark Fire Chief Jarett Metheny says sleep schedules also play a role in this.

“Our firefighters work 24- or 48-hour shifts, so they don’t sleep regularly, which contributes significantly to cardiovascular risk,” says Chief Metheny.

Prevention is essential.

Chief Metheny says consultants come to the Ozark Fire Protection District for health and wellness assessments.

“Each month, they will do an evaluation, a follow-up, an educational component,” explains Chief Metheny. “We can get a dietician to help us understand what kinds of activities we can do to help reduce these cardiovascular diseases.”

Chief Metheny says his department also focuses on mental and emotional health.

“The stress our firefighters experience every day creates additional risk factors, so we try to find as many different mitigating factors as possible,” says Chief Metheny.

Division Chief Ash says Springfield has caused firefighters to suffer from overwork. Luckily, Division Chief Ash said they were all fine.

“It’s a very stressful situation where you have a fire, you can have other patients and other casualties on the scene, and then one of your own collapses as well,” says Division Chief Ash. “It’s a very stressful event. Very high anxiety.

Both departments also mentioned the importance of keeping their crews hydrated, especially on those hot days.

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