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Australia’s bushfire fighters can handle the heat

Volunteer bushfire crews across rural Australia are well-trained and know how to modify their behaviour to avoid harmful levels of heat exhaustion, according to a study by a national research centre.

Scientists from Deakin University in Geelong, working with the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, found firefighters were less likely to collapse from heat stress than elite athletes exposed to similar hot conditions during sports matches.

The study, which involved 36 men and women, is one first of its kind to examine the cumulative effects of prolonged heat exposure on firefighters. It looked at how participants responded to three consecutive days of strenuous tasks such as dragging and holding heavy hoses, negotiating obstacles, building firebreaks, digging and raking.

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