by David DeMullé and Liana Enriquez
With record-breaking heat, when the alarm sounds, firefighters still respond to the call of duty. They’re battling fires in this intense heat wearing heavy gear that can bog you down.
“So, we’ve got 50 pounds of gear with about a 25-pound air packs on our back and it doesn’t include all the stuff you have in your pockets, tools and different things they might need,” says Capt. Reda Bigler of the Phoenix Fire Department.
Firefighters prepare for working in these extreme conditions.
“As the temperatures start to rise, we will run the skills course behind our station; pulling tires, raising ladders things that put us in our turnouts make us sweat, make our heart rate rise so our bodies are used to this and we can perform when we get called out in the middle of the afternoon when it’s 116.”
But once temperatures go above 105, Phoenix firefighters takes extra precautionary measures. “We change the way we dispatch, we add an additional engine on every working fire which allows us to recycle our firefighters faster,” said Bigler.
That means the second crew is ready to take the place of the first crew in order to give them a cooling break during the fire fight.
“Our work time is about 30 minutes. In the heat maybe about 20 minutes, then we’ll come back put more air in our bottles so we can go back in and do it again,” said Bigler.
They also dispatch a special truck, the Rehabilitation Unit, that serves as a cool place to give relief and indoor refuge to the fire crews.
Bigler explains the role of the Rehabilitation Unit, “these guys carry water, quencher and Gatorade for firefighters to hydrate. It has the ability to pop out an awning if we’re here for an extended amount of time and put chairs out they can go inside where it’s air conditioned if firefighters need to go in and cool off they can do that as well.” Take the firefighter’s boots: when it’s scorching hot outside, try to imagine walking in the “shoes” of a firefighter. “It’s like an oven, that’s exactly what it feels like,” says Captain Bigler.
For a video of this story: www.azfamily.com/story/35700870/firefighters-battleand-prepare-for-fires-heat#.WUnD2cPrEtg.email