Outside temperatures bring added risk for firefighters

PETERSBURG, Va, (WRIC) — Extreme outside temperatures can add even more risks for firefighters already working in the heat of the flames.

Even when the engine is back at the firehouse, firefighters are already preparing to handle these extreme temperatures: staying hydrated and avoiding caffeine.

Once they put on their turnout gear, the heat is on.

“Right now it’s 124 degrees, 127 on his shoulder,” said Petersburg Fire Captain Danny Partin.

Just a few minutes outside and the gear that firefighters wear to protect them becomes a whole new risk. It retains the outside heat.

“Most of the fires are somewhere around 300-500 degrees,” Captain Partin said. “So our gear is heated, then when we come out into the sunshine we really don’t have an opportunity to cool off.”

Many times they call in extra crews, just to give them extra time to cool off.

“If a normal call would take three personnel and it’s going to be lengthy, we may call in six to give a hand so we don’t have to be in the sunshine as much,” Captain Partin said.

The entire department shares one fan cooler to use on scene.

“This takes cold water from a cooler. It’s hooked to a fan and blows misty cool water on you,” Captain Partin said.

Firefighters try to get out of their turnout gear as soon as possible to cool down before their next call.

“The next call could be in five minutes later and we do it all over again,” said Captain Partin. “So that’s the main thing. We are on duty for 24 hours, so whatever happens in the heat in 24 hours is what we have to take care of.”

They said hydration is the number one priority. There are water coolers on each engine. During the extreme heat, they also have their Battalion Chief monitoring to make sure no one works to the point of exhaustion.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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