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The California Emergency Medical Services Authority manages and deploys California Medical Assistance Teams (CAL-MAT) to disaster medical incidents in the state. This analysis reviews diagnoses for ambulatory medical visits at multiple wildland fire incident base camp field sites in California during the 2020 fire season.
Clinical data without personal health information were extracted retrospectively from patient care records from all patients seen by a provider. Results were entered into Excel spreadsheets with calculation of summary statistics.
During the 2020 fire season, CAL-MAT teams deployed 21 times for a total of 327 days to base camps supporting large fire incidents and cared for 1756 patients. Impacts of heat and environmental smoke are a constant factor near wildfires; however, our most common medical problem was rhus dermatitis (54.5%) due to poison oak. All 2020 medical missions were further complicated by prevention and management of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
There is very little literature regarding the acute medical needs facing responders fighting wildland fires. Ninety-five percent of clinical conditions presenting to a field medical team at the wildfire incident base camp during a severe fire season in California can be managed by small teams operating in field tents.
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