High temperatures exhaust firefighters during fire

Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:23 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Roanoke’s Department of Fire-EMS has been busy the past few days, and with blistering temperatures, there was one firefighter who sustained heat exhaustion.

The rest had to be careful to avoid it in their hot gear close to white-hot flames. Battalion Chief Andy Foley says it’s their biggest thing to prepare for before an incident happens.

“We preach hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. So, when our personnel first come in, in the morning, you know, it’s drink water and drink water throughout the day,” said Foley.

The biggest hurdle is the turnout gear. Foley describes it as a baked potato. It keeps the heat from getting to them but also holds it inside.

“And that’s why, when you see people on that scene yesterday, as soon as they took their gear off, you know, their shirt was a very dark blue, which means they were sweating inside of there,” explained Foley. “And the only way to stop that is to get that gear off.”

The command staff oversees sending firefighters to what they call the rehab area when they notice someone needs a break.

“That’s when we get that gear off, get them cooled back down and get them re-hydrated,” added Foley. “And then we reassess, check vitals, make sure they’re ready to go back before we actually have them perform any more firefighting duties.”

As the fire progresses, they may rotate trucks while always looking out for each other.

“It’s just like a giant family. So if we see something happen and that’s the big thing, is if even if somebody says, hey, I think I’m good,” said Foley. “Then another firefighter would be like, hey, I think you need to go to rehab and you need to you need to hydrate cool down, and then we can go back in.”

The fire department said they appreciate it when the community offers them water. But ask everyone to stay out of the main scene to avoid getting hurt or being in the way.

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