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Post Stress Trama Reactions in Firefighters After Wildfires in Greece

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  • Post Stress Trama Reactions in Firefighters After Wildfires in Greece

    The Lancet 2008; 371:301
    Traumatic reactions in firefighters after wildfires in Greece
    Constantin Psarros a, Christos G Theleritis a, Sophia Martinaki a and Ioanna-Despoina Bergiannaki a b

    During the last fortnight of August, 2007, wildfires devastated large areas of Greece and in particular the Peloponnese, where almost 1 800 000 hectares of forest and agricultural fields were burnt.1,2 It was a tragedy with no precedent. In the region of Ilia, where Ancient Olympia is situated, 762 homes, 30 official buildings, 12 churches, and 731 stables and warehouses were destroyed or severely damaged, and thousands of people lost their properties.2 Of the 67 fatalities in Greece, 43 were in the province of Ilia and three of those were firefighters.1

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    The wildfires persisted for about 10 days and flames reached a height of 30 m, overwhelming firefighters' efforts. Firefighters were on duty for several days without sufficient rest, and suffered the same property losses as the affected population. Despite the difficulties, firefighters were able to save the temples and stadium of Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.
    The University Mental Health Research Institute and the 1st Department of Psychiatry at Eginition Hospital organised a joint task force of psychiatrists and mental-health clinicians to provide psychological support and to investigate the psychosocial consequences of this catastrophic event for professional firefighters.
    1 month after the fires, 102 male firefighters who lived within the fire-devastated area and who attempted to control the disaster were interviewed using several inventories and questionnaires. 44 of these firefighters were seasonally employed. Post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the criteria of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD?10) was detected in 19 of the firefighters, 12 of whom were seasonally employed. These firefighters were generally young, had high anxiety on the Spielberger state anxiety inventory, and had little experience in dealing with disasters.
    The findings indicated that, in a similar way to disaster victims,3 rescue personnel who are distressed by a catastrophic event might be at high risk for development of psychological impairment. Therefore early detection of specific post-disaster psychological reactions might be essential for prevention and mitigation of psychiatric morbidity after disasters.
    We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

    <!--start simple-tail=-->References

    1. Naughton P. 51 dead as Greek forest fires rage on. Times Online. Aug 26, 2007:
    (accessed Nov 7, 2007)..
    2. WWF Greece. Ecological assessment of the wildfires of August 2007 in the Peloponnese, Greece. Athens, Greece: WWF Greece. 2007:
    (accessed Nov 7, 2007)..
    3. Reijneweld SA, Crone MR, Verhulst FC, Verloove-Vanhorick SP. The effect of a severe disaster on the mental health of adolescents: a controlled study. Lancet 2003; 362: 691-696. Abstract | Full Text | Full-Text PDF (92 KB) | CrossRef
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