Carmel Fire 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Ninety percent of the firefighters who took part in the effort to extinguish the
huge Carmel Forest conflagration a little over a year ago still suffer from at
least one health problem caused by the mass catastrophe, according to new
University of Haifa research.
According to the study of 272 firefighters,
which was carried out using questionnaires, a third of them immediately
developed a health problem as a result of their rescue work to put a halt to the
fire, which killed 44 people and was the deadliest fire in the history of the
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The study began with questionnaires sent to the firefighters
immediately after the event, and those results were compared with a recent
follow-up questionnaire. Additional surveys will be conducted among the
same population in the future to investigate long-term occupational health risks
Two-thirds of the firefighters said they felt an
immediate threat to their lives during the fire and after it. Half of those
complained of stress even weeks or months after the catastrophe. A third of
those who complained from the outset about new health problems – including
breathing difficulties – right after the fire, continued to note health
complaints a week later. A small percentage, the researcher said, noted that
they continued to suffer from respiratory symptoms for a long time.
Raphael Carel, head of environmental and occupational health at the university’s
School of Public Health and one of the heads of the research, said that many of
the firefighters worked for 16 hours nonstop to put the fire out. Often,
they lacked suitable protective equipment, he said, and thus were at risk of
“As a result of the Carmel fire, there remain a certain
percentage of participants who have respiratory problems that testify to the
need for continued follow-up and investigation of chronic health problems in
this group,” concluded Carel.