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Federal grant funds research on how Fort McMurray wildfire affected first responders' health

Federal grant funds research on how Fort McMurray wildfire affected first responders' health
From Global News - March 14, 2017

A $500,000 federal grant will fund research looking at how the Fort McMurray wildfire affected first responders healthboth mental and physical.

The two-year Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grant will support the work of University of Alberta epidemiologist Nicole Cherry.

READ MORE:Fort McMurray wildfires effect on firefighters health being studied

Cherry and her team started gathering information from firefighters as they came back from fighting the blaze. They tookblood, urine and breath samples of firefighters as they return from northeastern Alberta in a mobile laboratory set up in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton. They used a respiratory testing unit to measure the impact the fire, smoke and ash had on their respiratory system.

Cherrys team tested more than 350 firefighters in the weeks that followed.

During the first few days, it was clear that fighting that fire was very stressful, Cherry said.They werent getting any sleep, they were exhausted and often complained of breathing problems.

The firefighters from Fort McMurray itself were often seeing their homes and the homes of people they know burn down. It was a very stressful experience.

Her study will aim to contact every Alberta-based firefighter deployed to the blaze, including structural and wildland firefighters employed by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

READ MORE:Fort McMurray wildfire will shorten lives of firefighters: union

The team will also look at mitigating factors, like the type of masks firefighters wore and how long they were wearing them for.

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