Amid heavy smoke, wildfire crews work without practical respirators

By Hannah Weinberger
The Chronicle
September 4, 2023
Category: Health & Safety
Region: United States, US West

Smoke lingered in the heat as fire Capt. Jeff Wainwright sweltered near Hangman Valley outside Spokane this past June. Baking in his bunker gear on a wildfire assignment, he caught a whiff of himself and realized the smoke was sticking to the open pores of his skin. Back when he was a teen, Wainwright said, he wouldn’t have thought twice about being able to smell himself, but now at 53 with a family, it’s a different story. “It’s just crazy how much toxicity is in our bodies,” said Wainwright, who chairs the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters’ wildland fire and mobilization committee. “We’re ticking time bombs.” America’s wildland firefighters spend long hours exerting themselves in wildfire smoke, but haven’t worn respirators while tackling wildland fire. Wainwright said he would if he could, but despite the danger, no one has ever manufactured a respirator suited to his job.

Read More