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  • Confusion on medical standards

    So I?m really confused about how the medical standards for wildland firefighters work. I hear some people say it?s a simple health questionnaire, I hear others talk about the interagency medical standards. I hear the Forest Service has little to no standards but DOI does. What about waivers? As a guy who is trying to pursue wildland firefighting but has a potentially disqualifying condition(vision related) could I get some help understanding this? Thanks.

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    Yeah, its a mess. So about 10 years ago the federal wildland agencies decided to adopt more strenuous medical screening. DOI has 4 of the 5 Fed wildland agencies, while the US Forest Service falls under Dept of Agriculture. The agencies work together and divide up tasks, for example the USFS contracts all of the larger multi engine air tankers, while the BLM does the same for the small single engine air tankers (SEATs).

    The medical screening was tasked to the DOI and it was a disaster. First off they hired a dentist, not an MD to oversee the program. They did not reference NFPA, a non-fire experienced medical person (again, a dentist) decided what conditions were allowable or a cause for dismissal. There was no procedure for contesting a finding of not fit to serve as a firefighter.

    As you might imagine the program was a mess, and the USFS quickly pulled out. The DOI agencies continued for a few years, but my understanding is the program was indefinitely suspended back in 2011 or 2012.


    Now the other medical screening has been in effect since 2000 or so and is part of the pack test. This is the HSQ or Health Screening Questionnaire. It is a self assessment, you answer the questions (have you ever had a heart attack, is your blood pressure above 140 etc), if you answer yes to certain questions it triggers an actual medical exam to determine if you are healthy enough to take the pack test. If you don't you answer yes to any red flags you get cleared to take the pack test. Used to be done at the local level and you could get cleared in 5 minutes. Now it gets sent away and takes a couple of weeks to process.


    Vision is unlikely to be an issue unless it is really bad, like Mr Magoo glasses with lenses an inch thick bad.


    This is for the Feds though, state and local use their own standards.
    Last edited by Here and there; 02-06-2018, 12:30 AM.

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