How a longer wildfire season impacts firefighters’ mental health

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — As wildfire season grows longer by the year in Colorado, the mental weight and responsibility of saving homes and lives from wildfires get heavier for first responders.

With several consecutive windy days in Boulder County, firefighters are more alert and prepared for fires to spread.

“There’s a general skill that firefighters and fire departments have to manage that level of stress,” Marya Washburn with Boulder Fire-Rescue said.

Washburn said fire departments, in general, are becoming more aware of the need to take care of firefighters’ mental health, especially during wildfire season and times of increased activity.

“We operate on a shift system, so our firefighters are on for a certain number of days and then off,” Washburn said. “The hope is when they’re off they can truly be off and take a couple days to decompress and take the time they need.”

First responders in Colorado said they need better access to mental health resources in a recent study.

The findings are part of a report from the National Mental Health Innovation Center at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, in partnership with Responder Strong.

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