Nearly 14,000 firefighters are employed to combat wildland fires resulting in 13 fatalities and 270 injuries per year. Their ability to cope during stressful situations is critical for optimal performance to prevent morbidity and mortality.
PURPOSE: To quantify the coping skills of wildland firefighters.
METHODS: Following written informed consent, a modified Athletic Coping Skills Inventory (ACSI): coping with adversity (COPE), peaking under pressure (PEAK), goal setting/mental preparation (GOAL), concentration (CONC), freedom from worry (FREE), confidence and achievement motivation (CONF), coachability (COACH), and personal coping resources (PCR) and a modified Sports Inventory for Pain (SIP): direct coping (COP), cognitive (COG), catastrophizing (CAT), avoidance (AVD), body awareness (BOD), and total coping response (TCR) were completed by 140 wildland firefighters (mean age = 28.5 ± 13.9 yrs). Data were grouped by occupation (hotshot, smokejumper), job description (supervisor, manager, worker), and years of experience (1-9, 10-19, 20+). Raw ACSI and SIP scores were converted to normalized standard scores (T-scores; mean =50, SD = 10).
RESULTS: MANOVAs (Wilks’ λ criterion) had a significant main effect by job description (F8,139 = 1.919, p = .019) and years of experience, (F8,139 = 1.835, p =.027) but not occupation (F8,139 = 1.53). Post hoc analysis indicated that supervisors scored significantly higher on PEAK (p = .028) than managers and workers, respectively. Post hoc analysis indicated 20+ yrs of experience scored significantly higher on FREE (p = .031), while 10-19 yrs scored significantly higher on PEAK (p=.045). In terms of pain coping, MANOVA indicated a significant main effect by occupation (F6,139 = 3.104, p = .011). Post hoc analysis indicated that hotshots scored significantly higher on CAT (p = .014) AVD, (p = .002) but lower BOD (p = .008) than smokejumpers, respectively. No other significant main effects were observed. T-scores indicated average to lower than average (39-56) responses from wildland firefighters.
CONCLUSIONS: It is recommended that occupational psychologists be employed to enhance the coping skills training involving wildland firefighters.