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Colorado Firefighters Risk Injury Battling Wildfires

Pressing heat and high winds continue to put Colorado firefighters at risk of injury as they battle the wildfires that are ripping through the state.

As of Monday morning, a fire near Fort Collins had destroyed at least 189 homes and burned more than 90 square miles of land. It is now about 50 percent contained. The fire's path of destruction is one of the largest in state history.

Unfortunately, this is not the only Colorado wildfire burning this summer. A fire near Colorado Springs has burned 1.5 square miles and is expected to grow in the hot, dry weather. A fire near Pagosa Springs is now 19 square miles in area and only 30 percent contained.

Workers Compensation for Colorado Firefighters

Wildfires put firefighters at risk for a whole host of injuries. Most obvious are burns and smoke inhalation caused by exposure to the fire itself. This risk is particularly acute when high winds whip flames into unpredictable directions.

But, firefighters are also at risk of a whole host of more ordinary injuries. For example, long hours wearing heavy clothing in hot weather can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Carrying hoses and equipment can translate into back injuries or repetitive stress injuries. Many firefighters become injured after slipping and falling on wet land.

Firefighting is a high-risk profession, and the chance of injury is always present. However, this doesn't mean that firefighters have to go without help if they get hurt.

Colorado workers' compensation law provides benefits for nearly all injured workers, regardless of who was at fault for causing the accident. Injured workers cannot be denied benefits simply because they assumed the risk of engaging in a high-risk job.

Firefighters work hard to keep all of us safe. If they get hurt on the job, they deserve a chance to get better.

Source: News On 6, "Wildfires claim 189 homes in northern Colorado," P. Solomon Banda, June 18, 2012.

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