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Study shows health, reaction-time declines in firefighters

BOISE, Idaho — Researchers have expanded a health-monitoring study of wildland firefighters after a previous study found season-long health declines and deteriorating reaction times.

Eighteen firefighters who parachute from airplanes are wearing advanced motion monitors this summer to track how they hold up.

A University of Idaho study last year with nine firefighters found they lost muscle mass and had slower reaction times as the fire season progressed.

Researchers say initial thoughts from that small sample are that firefighters might need better nutrition to stay fit and mentally sharp.

Researchers hope to conduct the study again next year with more than 100 firefighters.

Some 19,000 wildland firefighters are currently active.

Fourteen firefighters have died this year as wildfires have scorched about 3,500 square miles (9,000 square kilometers) and destroyed some 3,000 homes.