Local firefighters battling fires in the summer heat

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD)– Summer has arrived in Central Illinois and meteorologists said the heat has been slowly increasing.

While many people can simply go indoors to cool off, local firefighters said they don’t have that luxury.

Fire Chief Joe Kelley, with the Morton Fire Department, said the heat presents a concern for firefighters, especially since their jobs already require them to plunge into blazing hot environments.

“Because of the firefighter gear that we wear, you lose your body’s ability to dissipate that heat,” Kelley said. “This time a year it’s even more of a concern because when you come out of that fire it’s still hot.”

Chief Kelley said regardless of the weather, firefighters still have a job to do. He said in addition to the scorching environments, wearing layers upon layers of protective gear can be a recipe for potential disaster.

“Heat problems range from heat cramps that can occur on up through heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” Kelley said.

Larry Gilmore, Limestone fire chief, said his team has their means of keeping each other safe when the temperature rises.

“We’ve got ventilators and fans running,” Gilmore said. “We [also] do a check on each person about every 10 minutes. If they’re starting to get overheated and starting to feel dizzy they get sat down here, come down and we get them cooled off.”

Chief Kelley also said keeping his team hydrated is a key factor to keeping his crews cool.

“We carry with us water and coolers on each of our ambulances where we send an ambulance with every one of our fire assignments,” Kelley said.

He said in extreme cases, he’ll put firefighters in the back of an air conditioned ambulance on scene to cool down.

“[We’ll] monitor their vitals, their blood pressures, and make sure that stays good,” Kelley said. “We’ll keep them in that environment until their pulse rates come down back to a normal level.”

Kelley said team members are rotated every so often and many times community members bring them water on the job.

He said, ironically, the winter is more problematic for them because they’ll have to deal with falling ice and frozen water hoses. Kelley said when firefighters put their suits on, they have to be prepared for anything.

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