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FEMA grant is funding study on cancer in wildland firefighters

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Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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A firefighter oversees a prescribed burn on Observatory Mesa in Flagstaff on Nov. 2, 2021 as part of the Flagstaff Prescribed Fire Training Exchange program.

A $1.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding a study through University of Arizona Health Sciences on the cancer risks for wildland firefighters.

Cancer is the leading cause of death for municipal firefighters, but it hasn’t been adequately studied in wildland personnel.

The study will assess their exposure to carcinogens while fighting wildfires and include 300 people across multiple departments and states.

Researchers expect to find increased cancer rates among wildland firefighters based on known exposures and say the goal of the study is to reduce that risk.