Fire plus heat; how firefighters deal with the burning combination

Fire plus heat; how firefighters deal with the burning combination

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by Andrea Lutz

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KTVB.COM

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 3:47 PM

BOISE -- While Treasure Valley residents battle the heat, Idaho fire crews continue to battle dozens of fires across the southwestern part of the state.

How they deal with dangerous conditions can mean the difference between life and death.

Jessica Gardetto with the Bureau of Land Management says the most important safety precaution firefighters can take is recognizing the various signs of heat illness. "The best thing that we do is we train firefighters from the get-go to recognize signs of heat stroke,” said Gardetto.

In other words, firefighters have to make it their job to know how to deal with the heat. “Heat exhaustion is always a major concern with firefighters,” explained Gardetto.

She says preventing heat exhaustion is just as simple as drinking water -- a lot of it.

“We tell them to make sure you take frequent drinks of water and a lot of them have camel backs now, so they have tubes of water that comes right up here, so it’s easy for them to get drinks,” she said.

However, firefighters are also wearing protective fire gear. Although, the gear is fire proof, it is also heavy and the material doesn't breathe well-- That adds to your body's heat.

Communication is also key in dealing with the heat, according to Gardetto.

“If you are feeling heat stroke or if you are feeling extremely hot then make sure you tell your crew members and notify everybody,” said Gardetto.

But there is also another danger for firefighters on the line, and that is their level of exhaustion.

“So we make sure that firefighters can work 15 to 16 hours on and then they need to have rest after that,” she said.

Gardetto says doing that is maintaining the work to rest ratio-

“We try to make sure we switch them out as much as possible and when we have a big fire bust like this we call for resources from other states, and they come and relieve the firefighters who have been working so hard for hours at a time,” said Gardetto.

Other firefighters from around Idaho as well as neighboring states are being called upon to help with our fires and give our firefighters some rest.

Gardetto said some resources, are already here. 

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