Wildfires projected to increase 50 percent by 2050

The area of forest burned by wildfires in the United States will increase by more than 50 percent by the year 2050, according to research conducted by the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, U.K. The forests in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains are predicted to be the areas most greatly affected, with an increase of 78 percent and 175 percent, respectively. The researchers based their projections on a temperature increase of 1.6°C over the next 40 years.

The scientists report that the increase in wildfires will lead to significant deterioration of the air quality in the western United States, as a result of the greater presence of smoke. Dr. Dominick Spracklen, lead author of the research, explains that wildfires, such as those in California earlier this year, are a serious problem in the United States and that climate changes will make things “significantly worse.” He adds that the area in the Rocky Mountains burned by wildfires will almost triple by 2050.

The study also predicts a 40 percent increase in the western United States in the concentration of tiny soot particles in the air, known to scientists as organic carbon aerosol, which affect air quality and visibility. The U.S. government has introduced legislation aimed at improving air quality and visibility by 2064; this research has shown that wildfires will become an increasing source of air pollution, especially in the western United States, Spracklen explains.


Line-of-Duty Deaths


July 21. Firefighter Thomas Marovich, 20, USDA Forest Service-Modoc National Forest, Alturas, CA: fatally injured from fall while performing routine rappel proficiency skill training.

August 1. Captain Eric Allan Tinkham, 44, Queen Creek (AZ) Fire Department: cardiac arrest.

August 6. Assistant Chief John P. “Jack” Horton, 68, Marlboro (VT) Volunteer Fire Company: collapsed in the path of a fire truck, which struck him; investigation pending.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database


USFA endorses residential fire sprinklers


The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) U.S. Fire Administration has announced its support of the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), which mandates the installation of fire sprinklers in all new homes beginning in 2011. The endorsement was based on the results of 30 years of testing, research, and development,

The IRC mandate is also supported by the fire service and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and the International Association of Fire Fighters. Proponents of residential sprinklers say smoke detectors are no longer enough for residential fire protection, since lightweight construction has become more prevalent and has made house contents more flammable than ever. According to a cost-benefit analysis by FEMA, the time available to escape a house fire has been decreased from 17 minutes 20 years ago to three minutes today.


FDA authorizes use of another influenza virus diagnostic test


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Focus Diagnostics Influenza H1N1 (2009) Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) diagnostic test for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. This is the third diagnostic test the FDA has authorized under an EUA since the public health emergency involving the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus was declared on April 26, 2009.

The EUA allows Focus Diagnostics to distribute the test to laboratories certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) to perform high complexity tests. This test is not typically used in a doctor’s office—it is a complex laboratory test performed in an environment that has the necessary equipment. These tests are intended for use in the detection of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus in patients with symptoms of respiratory infection.

The Focus Diagnostics test amplifies the viral genetic material obtained from swabs of the nose or throat, or from nasal discharges. A positive result indicates that the patient is infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. However, the test does not indicate the stage of infection. A negative result does not preclude influenza virus infection.

The FDA’s EUA authority allows it, based on the evaluation of available data and other things, to authorize the use of unapproved medical products or unapproved uses of approved medical products following a determination and declaration of emergency. The Focus Diagnostics test is an unapproved device. The authorization ends when the declaration of emergency is terminated or the FDA revokes the authorization. EUA is part of Project BioShield, which became law in July 2004. Additional information is at http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm125127.htm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) released recommendations for the use of vaccine against novel influenza A (H1N1) at the end of July. The initial supply of vaccine will be made available to the following populations: pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, health care and emergency services personnel, persons from the ages of six months through 24 years, and people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. The ACIP recommended that once the demand for the vaccine for these prioritized groups has been met at the local level, programs and providers should begin vaccinating everyone from the ages of 25 through 64 years. Since current studies indicate the risk for infection among persons ages 65 and older is less than the risk for younger age groups, vaccination will be offered to people over the age of 65 after the younger age groups have been vaccinated.

The novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine but is to be used alongside it. Both vaccines may be administered on the same day.


Senate confirms Cochran as U.S. Fire Administrator


The U.S. Senate, in August, confirmed Chief Kelvin Cochran by voice vote as administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate applauded the confirmation: “As the chief of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department as well as the former chief in Shreveport, LA, Chief Cochran brings extensive experience to a critical position within our Agency and the Department of Homeland Security,” noted Fugate. “The USFA plays a critical role in our efforts to mitigate, prepare, and respond to disasters and emergencies, and I look forward to working with Chief Cochran as we continue to build our national emergency response team,” Fugate added.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) also endorsed Cochran’s nomination and, in July, had written a letter to Senators Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Susan Collins (ME), the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, asking that Cochran be confirmed. IAFC President Chief Larry Grorud cited Cochran’s 27 years of experience as a fire chief and emergency manager, which includes responding to all hazards for 27 years. Cochran has held leadership positions with the IAFC and the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association.

The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) had also endorsed Cochran’s nomination. According to the NVFC, Cochran told the Senate that “one of his first acts as U.S. Fire Administrator would be to reach out to national organizations representing volunteer firefighters, including the NVFC, to ensure that USFA continues to be responsive to the needs of the volunteer fire service.”


NVFC seeks first responders’ input on communication needs


The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) initiated in August an online survey to obtain critical data from emergency personnel nationwide that will be used in the design of an advanced new incident command software application, Incident Management & Decision Support System (IMDSS), being developed by the Department of Homeland Security and ElanTech.

The program will provide on-site incident commanders with the real-time, dynamic data they need to coordinate the efforts of first responders. Also, it will aggregate access to 911 calls, maps, traffic, weather, resource availability, and other critical logistical information. IMDSS will be a compact, portable geointelligence dashboard featuring a dynamic operating picture overlaid on imagery of the affected area, according to the NVFC.

Emergency managers, firefighters, paramedics, and police are urged to complete the short online survey at www.elantech-inc.com/IMDSSQuestionnaire/. Survey participants will be entered in a drawing to win a $50 Visa gift card. Additional information on the survey is available from Paul Seabury at Paul Seabury@elantech-inc.com or (301) 486-0600, ext. 116.


NFSA responds to campaign against fire sprinklers


The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has written a letter to Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford concerning the organization’s campaign against the government’s adoption of the recently passed International Residential Code (IRC).The new IRC requires that fire sprinkler systems be installed in all new one- and two-family homes in the United States, beginning in 2011. The code is in the process of being adopted at state or local jurisdictional levels across the country.

NFSA President John Viniello noted in the letter that Habitat for Humanity’s opposition to the fire sprinkler mandate in Michigan has been disheartening, since fire sprinklers are the “most valuable fire safety devices a residence can contain.”

“Eight out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home, and most firefighter deaths result from fighting residential fires,” Viniello noted. “Fire sprinkler systems have been saving lives for more than 100 years,” he added. “We think every person deserves the right to be safe in their own home.”


USFA introduces Tech Talk


The first issue of Tech Talk, a U.S. Fire Administration online newsletter, which provides information on topics of interest to the fire protection community, was introduced in July. Its topic is Self-Illuminated Signs, or self-powered lighting sometimes used to mark exits. The information may be downloaded in PDF format at www.usfa.dhs.gov. Topics for the newsletter are selected from readers’ inquiries and suggestions. Readers are invited to suggest a topic for future issues.


Formaldehyde exposure associated with cancers


A study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has shown that workers employed at plants that use or produce formaldehyde show a possible link between formaldehyde exposure and death from cancers of the blood and lymphatic system, especially myeloid leukemia. The study provides an additional 10 years of follow-up data that build on previous findings from this study. The report was published online May 12, 2009, and in print May 20, 2009, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Lead study author Laura E. Beane Freeman, Ph.D., NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, says additional studies are needed to evaluate the risks of these cancers in other formaldehyde-exposed populations and to assess possible biological mechanisms.

Formaldehyde is widely used for industrial purposes and as a preservative and disinfectant and has been classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The NCI has studied cancer deaths among a group of 25,169 workers, predominately white males, employed before 1966 in 10 industrial plants that produced formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin and that used the chemical to produce molded plastic products, decorative laminates, photographic film, or plywood.

The report, which includes an average follow-up of more than 40 years, revealed a statistically significant association between death from all blood and lymphatic cancers combined and peak formaldehyde exposure. Workers with the highest peak exposures had a 37 percent increased risk of death compared with those with the lowest level of peak exposures. The risk of death from myeloid leukemia was 78 percent higher among industrial workers with the highest peak exposures compared with those with the lowest peak exposures. Pathologists, embalmers, and other professionals who experience high-intensity peak exposures to formaldehyde also were reported to have excess risks of death from myeloid leukemia. The study is the first to report a statistically significant association between a chemical exposure and increased risk of death from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Beane Freeman LE, A Blair, JH Lubin, et al. “Mortality from Lymphohematopoietic Malignancies Among Workers in Formaldehyde Industries: The National Cancer Institute Cohort,” JNCI; May 20, 2009, 101(10).


High cancer rate among WTC responders identified


Experts who treat World Trade Center (WTC) responders have reported an “unusual cancer among their patients.” In a study published by physicians with the Mount Sinai WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, eight cases of multiple myeloma, a serious but manageable blood cancer, were found among 28,000 patients who breathed the air at Ground Zero. Four of the cases, all law enforcement officers, were patients under the age of 45, representing a rate four times than what is expected in the general population.

Normally, multiple myeloma is found in four out of every 100,000 patients, according to an article in the New York Daily News. It is considered a disease of older people and usually takes 10 to 20 years to develop. The officers, assigned to the perimeter of Ground Zero, The Pile, or the Fresh Kills landfill, were exposed to multiple chemicals, including benzene, which has been linked to blood cancers. All became ill within a few years, in their 30s or early 40s.

The study’s authors noted that although their study does not prove cause and effect, it “proves, again, the overwhelming need to keep a close eye on all those who had sustained exposure to the toxins released when the towers fell.” “New horror for heroes: “First proof of higher cancer rate among World Trade Center responders,” www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2009/08/13/2009/08-13_new_horror_for_heroes_first_proof_of_h…, August 13, 2009.


Fire department honors fallen member with seat belt use


The Waterbury (CT) Fire Department was cited for 100 percent use of seat belts in August and has taken the Fire Service National Seat Belt Pledge. The department set out to achieve this accomplishment as a tribute to one of its members, Captain John Keane, 37, who was killed in the line of duty as a result of a fire truck collision in 2007. Keane was one of 12 firefighters nationwide killed in the line of duty as a result of crashes in 2007. www.wfsb.com/news/20310448/detail.html/.


New answer sheets for EMI Independent Study Courses


The Emergency Management Institute’s (EMI) Independent Study Program (ISP) announced in August the availability of a new Opscan answer sheet form for the completion of ISP courses. The new form, number 95-23, replaces the 95-9 and 95-9a Opscan forms. The new form may be requested at the ISP Web site http://training.fema.gov/ (Select “Opscan Request Form” from the “Important Notices” box); the form may be used also in classroom and individual training when not submitting exams online.

The deadline for acceptance of the 95-9 and 95-9a Opscan forms was September 30, 2009. Additional questions regarding the new form may be directed to the ISP Office at (301) 447-1200, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. EST or by e-mail to independent.study@dhs.gov/.


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