How local firefighters stay safe battling fires in sweltering summer heat

Posted at 6:42 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-25 18:42:06-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. -- A heat advisory and temperatures well over 100 degrees on the heat index can't stop firefighters, but it does change the way they do things.

"We're fighting that heat on both ends today," said Dinwiddie Fire Chief Dennis Hale, from outside a house fire.

A house fire Monday in Dinwiddie was handled differently than if the temperature was more moderate.

"Normal response in Dinwiddie is three stations and a medic unit," Hale said.

That wasn't possible given the current conditions.

"We went ahead and doubled the response to all six stations from the county and multiple medic units," Hale said.

Those medic units had paramedics keeping close tabs on every firefighter coming out of the house.

"I have all their heart rates, pulse, oxygen, temperature and blood pressure all checked," said EMS manager Dawn Titmus.

Titmus added that firefighters have to be re-evaluated and cleared before they are allowed to go back inside, either to fight fire or for overhaul.

"It's been hard," said 18-year-old Jeremy Johnson.

He was fighting his first house fire during a heat advisory.

"It was very hot in there, very very hot," he said.  "When I went in, instant sweat -- and you think you cool off when you come outside, but you don't cool off too much"."

"Once it takes them down, they need a much longer recovery time so we're not able to just take crews and bring them out and put them back like we normally would," said Chief Hale.

Dinwiddie Fire used high output fans to help try and cool firefighters, as well as providing ice-cold water and sports drinks.