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Mental ill-health in firefighters deployed to the Fort McMurray Fire

Keywords: Mental Health Disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Title of Research

Mental ill-health in firefighters deployed to the Fort McMurray Fire


In May 2016, the northern town of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was devastated by a wildfire. Firefighters from across Alberta and neighbouring provinces were deployed to contain the fire and limit damage to property. For the firefighters, particularly in the first few days, the experience was physically and mentally overwhelming. Shortly after the fire, 1200 firefighters were recruited to the study.

The firefighters have been monitored to see which mental health symptoms (if any) have been resolved, and which they are still experiencing, Clinical interviews with these firefighters, especially those who reported mental ill-health, were conducted. The goal was to learn about factors that predispose people to particular types of mental health issues. In addition, the study team wanted to see how interventions in the workplace can reduce the severity or duration of such conditions.

When to expect results

A summary of current findings will be presented at the end-of-grant workshop.

Research Team

Dr. Nicola Cherry, Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta; Dr. Scott Patten, Professor of Community Health Science & Psychiatry at the University of Calgary; Jeff Sych registered psychologist with Badge of Life Canada.

Final Results

Final Knowledge Translation report

Papers resulting from the research

Cherry, N., Galarneau, JM., Melnyk, A. & Patten, S. (2020). Prevalence of mental ill-health in a cohort of first responders attending the Fort McMurray fire. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Read Summary

Cherry, N., Galarneau, JM., Haynes, W., & Sluggett, B. (2021). The role of organizational supports in mitigating mental ill health in firefighters: A cohort study in Alberta, Canada. America Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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