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Article Title

ELECTROLYTE BALANCE AND HYDRATION STATUS DURING WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION

Abstract

A. Marks1, A. Rosalez1, P. Dodds1, J. Sol2, J. Domitrovich2, B.C. Ruby, FACSM1

1University of Montana, Missoula, MT; 2United States Forest Service, Missoula, MT

Our laboratory has previously demonstrated the total energy fluid demands of wildland firefighters (WLFF) during arduous fire suppression. However, it remains unclear how current hydration strategies, occupational activity, and fire line provisions may alter overall hydration and electrolyte balance. PURPOSE: To determine WLFF fluid retention and urine production as influenced by environmental conditions, self-selected hydration practices, and work output during fire suppressions shifts. METHODS: 59 WLFF (9 female, 50 male; 29±6 yr) from various crew types were deployed to fire incidents across the United States during the 2019 fire season and were observed throughout a single work shift. Before and after shifts, a measure of nude body weight was obtained. In a subset of subjects (n=25), pre and post-shift blood samples were also drawn to evaluate serum electrolytes. Fireline-certified researchers monitored fluid intake and urine output parameters (frequency, specific gravity [USG], volume) in real-time via observational data capture using graduated cylinder, refractometer, and mobile tablets. Dependent t-tests were performed for all comparative analyses and statistical significance was established at p<0.05. RESULTS: WLFF worked shifts of 13.9±1.1 hr, during which 4.7±1.6 L of water was consumed. WLFF eliminated 2.3±1.1 L via 5.7±2.7 voids (412±192 mL.void-1). There were no noted differences in USG from morning voids compared to those measured post meridiem (1.0106±0.0147 and 1.0106±0.0187 for AM and PM USG, respectively; p>0.05). No changes in nude body weight were observed across the work shift (80±13.4 and 79.8±13.2 kg for pre- and post-shift, respectively; p>0.05). Serum sodium and potassium did not change between pre- and post-shift blood draws (pre = 142±2 and 4.3±0.3, post = 141±2 and 4.2±0.3 mmol/L, respectively; p>0.05). CONCLUSION: These results demonstrate adequate fireline electrolyte provisions and currently employed WLFF hydration strategies. Moreover, the uniformity of pre- and post-shift measures (body weight, serum electrolytes) demonstrates that USG alone is not adequately indicative of hydration status during extended occupational stress.

Supported by National Technology & Development Program, USDA Forest Service.

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