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Occupational and environmental factors influencing morale of United States federal wildland firefighters

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Background Wildland firefighters have physically and psychologically demanding jobs that can result in social, economic and health-related stress. Previous studies have examined the physiological and physical effects of a career in wildland fire, but fewer studies have addressed psychological effects, and to date, none have directly analysed the hiring and work experiences of wildland firefighters. Aims We surveyed work experiences, health and well-being, and morale of wildland firefighters, explored factors that can improve recruitment and retention, and summarised broad patterns. Methods We conducted a voluntary anonymous survey of 708 federal wildland firefighters via an online platform over 2 months in 2022. Key results Respondents reported dissatisfaction with recruitment and hiring processes, low base salaries, poor mental health outcomes, and health and safety concerns. Respondents also reported the high importance of training, performance feedback and work environment to their retention in the field. We found significant effects of wildland firefighting on family status. Conclusions Wildland firefighters report experiencing low morale, financial stress, personal life strain and poor mental health outcomes. Implications These data provide a framework to establish future policy and research priorities and highlight the need for organisational actions and change.
Rachel M. Granberg, Ting Shen, Seth W. Pearson, and Robin M. Verble
Granberg RM et al. (2023) International Journal of Wildland Fire 32(12), 1663–1676. doi:10.1071/WF22098
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