Firefighters battling heat-related illness alongside fires in scorching summer heat

From battling flames to battling the heat.

This year's record-breaking summer is taking a toll on firefighters. “We have to be more aggressive with our cooling efforts of our fire fighters,” said Austin Fire Division Chief Palmer Buck.

Combine the heat from fires, all the equipment firefighters wear to protect themselves, and the triple digit temperatures, and you have a potential recipe for danger. “Fatigue kicks in, they don't pick their foot up enough, or they miss a step, or they injure themselves with a tool because of the fatigue, so we want to monitor that," said Chief Buck on the dangers heat can cause firefighters. 

Around a dozen firefighters in the past 3 weeks in Austin have dealt with some sort of heat related illness while out on calls. “We get them treated, we get them taken care of, take them off the trucks, but when we are working through these temperatures and the work that they are doing it's not unexpected we want to avoid that as much as possible,” said Chief Buck.

Buck said they take extra steps during the hot summer months to make sure their crews stay cool and hydrated when out fighting fires. "Lots of water, ice, hydration fans things like that, so we can keep our people cool re-hydrate them," said Buck.

Chief Buck said they rotate fire fighters in 20 minute intervals and also push for their crews to stay hydrated well before they get sent out on a call. “The night before you need to make sure you're drinking fluids and staying hydrated,” said Buck.

Chief Buck said they always make sure their fire engines have plenty of ice and water on board. When they do get called out on fires they also make sure to set up a cooling station for their crews.
The summer brings more than just heat. It also brings more fires according to chief Buck. They see more grass and trash fires especially when there hasn't been any rain.



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