The Department of the Interior is committed to supporting our wildland firefighters, who work in arduous, stressful environments. We recognize the impact this vitally important work can have on health and wellbeing, including mental health, and the Interior Department is developing programs to provide support tailored to the unique experiences and needs of our firefighters.
This initiative represents one of many efforts at the Interior Department to implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's support of wildland fire management.
Research indicates firefighters and other first responders may be at elevated risk for negative mental health impacts due to their work environment.
To address these impacts, the Interior Department’s Office of Wildland Fire, in concert with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, has begun work to establish a program supported by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to recognize and address mental health needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder care, for permanent, temporary, seasonal, and year-round wildland firefighters.
By streamlining and expanding existing mental health programs, the Office of Wildland Fire will work to support firefighter resilience, improve mental preparedness, and address the effects from cumulative stress.
This initiative, led by the Office of Wildland Fire, will work to create a bridge between existing programs, considering additional prevention and training program needs, enhance Critical Incident Stress Management capacity, and further development of early intervention trauma support services.
This effort will also result in closer coordination with the USDA Forest Service and other first responder groups to explore additional wildland firefighting mental health programs. The Office of Wildland Fire will continue to work hand-in-hand with the USDA Forest Service and other first responder groups to develop a fully-funded plan in 2022 to support wildland firefighter mental health needs in the coming years.
Mental health and wellness resources are available to wildland firefighters right now through a variety of sources:
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people experiencing a crisis or suicidal thoughts. You can call for support even if you are not experiencing a crisis, or you can call for resources and advice to help someone else. Call 1-800-273-8255 (after July 16, 2022, you can dial 988).
If you or someone else is at immediate risk of harming yourself or another person, call 911.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health developed a study to assess fire personnel wellbeing, occupational risk factors, exposure to smoke, and respiratory health outcomes.
Federal wildland firefighters who choose to participate will complete multiple online surveys, which will be distributed by safety managers beginning in June 2022.
Results from this survey will be shared with safety managers at the Interior Department and USDA Forest Service to provide insights as we develop mitigation strategies for line-of-duty environmental hazards and firefighters’ mental health resources, as directed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.