HEAT BATTLE: Firefighters Pull Double Duty
Des Moines firefighters are dealing with the dangers from the heat and flames. Neighbors called 911 to report a garage fire in the 1700 block of East 9th Street around 11:30 AM.
“I could smell something in the air, I looked around and couldn’t see any smoke, I couldn’t see anything,” says Ray Berglund.
About an hour later, Berglund couldn`t miss the smoke billowing from the building right next door. It took crews about ten minutes to douse the flames at the old gas station turned storage unit. But any length of time is dangerous for firefighters when the heat index reaches triple digits.
“I’m responsible for the rehabilitation of all our firefighters today,” says paramedic Jim Mitchell.
This week, the department activated a rehab tent to help firefighters cool off out in the field. The tent is stocked with water, cooling chairs, fans and medical equipment. With their heavy gear and hot temperatures, the concern is heat store or even a heart attack.
“We make sure we take all of their vital signs, make sure they’re at normal levels before we allow them to go back in and work in the structure,” says Mitchell.
“I’m glad I’m retired and not a volunteer anymore. It’s very hot, it’s very tiring, it drains you fast,” says Berglund.
As a former volunteer firefighter and EMT, he knows the effect heat has on the job.
“These people work until 7 o’clock tomorrow morning so we may have another fire, another two fires plus all the medical calls they’ll go on during the rest of their shift. So we have to take care of them now,” says Mitchell.
To make sure they`re ready for whatever comes next. The fire is still being investigated.