Agencies Boost Efforts to Stop Wildland Firefighter Suicides

Jul 15, 2019

Federal wildland firefighting authorities are increasing mental health resources following an apparent increase in firefighter suicides in recent years.

Credit usda.gov

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise say it's difficult to track the number of suicides because many federal agencies can't tally fatalities outside of work hours and some families don't want the cause released. But officials say there appears to be a jump in known suicides, so efforts are being boosted to get wildland firefighters help.

Experts say the high-intensity camaraderie of the wildfire season can be followed by months of isolation in the offseason and sometimes money concerns without a steady paycheck.

Reasons for the rise are unclear, though some cite longer and tougher wildfire seasons and an increase in the number of wildland firefighters who previously served in the military and were already dealing with post-traumatic stress.

In the past several years, the National Interagency Fire Center has bolstered a program that teaches coping skills and offers one-on-one crisis intervention to firefighters dealing with trauma and other issues. Federal agencies also have increased efforts to make firefighters aware that help is available.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255