SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Wildfires burned thousands of acres of land across Louisiana this past year. So research is underway to understand how this intense heat affects those who protect people’s lives and homes.

Inside an insulated room at LSU Shreveport, firefighters are training for something different. Science – the science of understanding how extreme heat affects their health and abilities on the job.

“We’re from Louisiana and it gets hot. But the reality is when they are in that personal protection equipment, they are undergoing heat stress that we are not used to. It can be intense. It can be painful. I’ve looked at cognitive aspects of it and you’re not able to think clearly when you get that hot,” said Dr. Cory Coehoorn, director of the PhD in Rehabilitation Science Program at the LSU Health Sciences Center and LSUS gratis faculty member.

Dr. Coehoorn is creating a thermal map of the body to find hot spots. His research focuses on firefighters wearing full-body personal protective equipment that prevents burns from the outside but traps body heat on the inside.

“What happens is they start to generate all this metabolic heat it starts to heat them up from the inside and the personal protective equipment itself will not let the heat escape,” Dr. Coehoorn said.

By enlisting firefighters to train under intense conditions and raising their core body temperatures, Coehoorn’s team is able to monitor how their bodies react during rapid heat stress. For a profession, he said already has a higher rate of health risks.

“I knew firefighters had higher rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. So I wanted to be able to determine what was one of the causes,” Dr. Coehoorn said.

He said they are in the preliminary stages of creating solutions. Hoping to create a device or apparel that redistributes heat away from their brains. To help the lives of those who save others.

“I want to protect these guys. I want to help them. I want to try and find ways to increase the longevity of their careers,” he said.