Background: Surveying survivors from a large fire provides an opportunity to explore the impact of emotional trauma on psychological outcomes.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional survey of survivors of The Station Fire. Primary outcomes were post-traumatic stress (Impact of Event Scale - Revised) and depressive (Beck Depression Inventory) symptoms. Linear regression was used to examine differences in symptom profiles between those with and without physical injuries. The free-response section of the survey was analyzed qualitatively to compare psychological sequelae of survivors with and without physical injuries.
Results: 104 participants completed the study survey; 47% experienced a burn injury. There was a 42% to 72% response rate range. The mean age of respondents was 32 years, 62% were male, and 47% experienced a physical injury. No significant relationships were found between physical injury and depressive or post-traumatic stress symptom profiles. In the qualitative analysis, the emotional trauma that survivors experienced was a major, common theme regardless of physical injury. Survivors without physical injuries were more likely to experience survivor guilt, helplessness, self-blame, and bitterness. Despite the post-fire challenges described, most survivors wrote about themes of recovery and renewal.
Conclusions: All survivors of this large fire experienced significant psychological sequelae. These findings reinforce the importance of mental health care for all survivors and suggest a need to understand factors influencing positive outcomes.