AFS emergency firefighters to undergo medical exams starting in November

The Kobuk River #2 Crew working on a fire in the Lower 48 this summer.

The Kobuk River #2 Type 2 EFF Crew working on a fire in the Lower 48 this summer.

The BLM Alaska Fire Service, in partnership with the Department of Interior Medical Standards Program (DOI MSP), will soon deliver medical exams to federal emergency firefighters. The goal of the exams is to increase safety by identifying pre-existing conditions that could be aggravated by the arduous duty of wildland firefighting.

The medical exams will be provided in approximately 28 Alaska villages through mobile medical units and by scheduled appointments at 18 pre-identified facilities in other locations throughout the state.

Starting in November, federal emergency firefighters (EFF) in Alaska, who are hired on an as-needed basis, will need medical exams once every three years and self-certify in between years. The medical screening established by the DOI MSP will screen EFF for any disqualifying medical conditions prior to participating in the Work Capacity Test (WCT), otherwise known as the pack test. Only wildland firefighters performing arduous duties are required to undergo medical exams and pass the WCT.

The schedule so far is:

Remaining village schedules will be posted on the BLM AFS EFF webpage  at https://afs.ak.blm.gov/eff.php.

Photo of the K-River crew with firefighters from Allakaket and Hughes grinding the black on a fire in the Lower 48 this summer.

The K-River crew with firefighters from Allakaket and Hughes gridding the black on a fire in the Lower 48 this summer.

Returning EFF firefighters and rookie candidates need to fill out a pre-exam packet that includes an exam request form. This form needs to be completed, signed, and faxed to BLM AFS at (907)356-5609 in order to schedule an exam.

A medical questionnaire and informational letter are needed at the time of the appointment. The forms are posted on the BLM AFS EFF webpage at https://afs.ak.blm.gov/eff.php.

Certain individuals may have conditions which prevent them from participating in the pack test or working as a firefighter, but they may apply for and be granted a waiver when there is sufficient evidence to show they can perform the job safely without endangering the health or safety of themselves or others.

For the past two years, Alaska EFF were granted exemptions to these medical screening requirements. The first phase of implementation of the medical exams began in 2015 and only included regularly employed Department of the Interior wildland firefighters. Applying the requirements to Alaska EFF was originally planned to begin in 2017, but implementation was delayed until measures were in place to provide mobile units in rural Alaska to conduct the medical examinations. The exams do not include drug testing or affect State of Alaska EFF.

Photo of Federal emergency firefighters candidates going through rookie training provided by BLM Alaska Fire Service in the spring of 2018

Federal emergency firefighters candidates went through rookie training provided by BLM Alaska Fire Service in the spring of 2018. BLM AFS provides the initial red card training to all candidates who qualify through medical and physical fitness standards.

There is no cost to the EFF for the examination, however, if the individual chooses a location other than their local village, BLM AFS will not cover the associated travel costs. After the exam is completed, a determination will be made regarding the candidate’s eligibility to participate in the pack test and the arduous duty of wildland firefighting.

The BLM AFS provides wildland fire management for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Native Corporation lands in Alaska and provides oversight of the BLM Alaska aviation program. Firefighter safety, and the safety of the public, is a core value and is fundamental in all areas of wildland fire management.

For more information, EFF candidates can email AFS_EFF@blm.gov or call EFF Program at 1-833-532-8810 or (907)356-5897.

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About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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