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Fourmile Canyon Firefighters at Risk

September 15, 2010

BOULDER, Colo. - Many of the firefighters at the Fourmile Canyon Fire lived in the mountain canyons outside of Boulder, where the flames scorched more than 6,000 acres. Experts say that close personal connection to the fire could put them at risk for post traumatic stress disorder - PTSD. Dr. Neil Weiner, director of Clinical Services at the University of Colorado Depression Center explains.

"I think loss of those kinds of personal affects, of memories, potential financial losses all can congeal and really increase the risk of post traumatic stress disorder."

Weiner says some depression or stress for a few weeks after this sort of event is normal, including flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, or insomnia. He notes if symptoms linger for more than three months that can be a sign that PTSD has developed, and the individual should seek help.

"Watch for the signs that can be early warning signs that a more severe disorder is developing. if those kind of symptoms do develop, to really make sure that they get help early which really increases the chance of recovery."

That treatment includes something called prolonged exposure therapy, where the patient talks about and reprocesses the event in detail. Weiner adds about 15 to 20 percent of first responders like firefighters could be at risk for the disorder.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO