IT’S HOT: How Firefighters Deal With The Heat
Anyone who had to work in Wednesday’s triple-digit heat knows it was grueling. Most of us can get out of the heat for a few minutes. Frank Cook was landscaping in West Des Moines “It’s hot.” he says with a sigh, “Just trying to keep cool. Take a couple breaks every once in a while. Drink lots of water.”
But firefighters don’t always have that luxury. Even on days like Wednesday, with triple digit temperatures, they’re expected to go into burning buildings wearing clothing designed to keep the heat out–but that also keeps their body heat in.
When temperatures get this high, there’s always a risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in gear like that. To see what they go through, I put on a firefighters jacket and helmet, then went up and down a flight of stairs about a dozen times in the blazing sun while carrying 50-pounds of sand to simulate their gear. In minutes my body temperature skyrocketed, I was sweating and breathing heavy. Firefighters have to take precautions. “Anytime you’ve got this extreme heat we got special equipment.” explains Des Moines firefighter Brian O’Keefe, “We want to get you in the shade right away. We’ve got a tent available. We have some fans that actually have some water induced in them to provide a little more cooling.”
Des Moines firefighters didn’t have to respond to any emergencies today that would have required the heavy gear. But they say they were prepared just in case with a truck full of ice water and fans.