The early and ferocious start to the bushfire season in Australia this year has raised questions about the impact on those at the frontline – the tens of thousands of volunteers helping to put out the blazes.
In Australia, the vast majority of bushfire fighters are volunteers. In the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, for instance, volunteers account for 89% of the workforce.
And with fire seasons due to become longer and bushfires more intense due to the impacts of climate change, this will place even more demands on the men and women undertaking this vital and demanding work.
Given this, it’s important for us to understand how our worsening bushfires are affecting the mental and physical health of volunteers. Is this causing burnout? And if so, is that making it more difficult for fire and emergency services to recruit new volunteers and keep the ones they have?