Evansville firefighters struggling to stay cool amid heat wave

Evansville firefighters struggling to stay cool amid heat wave
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Beating the heat is necessary to stay cool, but it’s not an easy task. Add fighting off a major structure fire, and it’s a tag team of brutal heat.

“Firefighters are already working in a high heat environment when they’re doing fire operations,” said District Chief of Health and Safety Tony Knight. “Add to that they’re performing strenuous activities while wearing personal protective equipment, that further heightens that body temperature.”

The fire suits they wear are no joke. Studies show they can reach temperatures of up to 160 degrees on the inside.

“But it also kind of traps our body heat in there, gets us really hot, and there really is no getting away from it,” said Evansville Station 1 Lieutenant Jonathan Haire.

The heat index is not helping firefighters either. With temperatures upward of 120 degrees, firefighters are facing a two-headed beast in the blaze, and the outdoor environment.

“But when we come out of this structure that we have this high humidity, that high heat indexes when it’s 115 [degrees] like it is today, it’s like going from the oven and stepping into the microwave,” said Knight.

The key to staying cool? Staying ahead of the game. The firefighters focus on hydrating prior to leaving for the scene of a blaze.

“We try to hydrate ourselves ahead of time and try to just be proactive with the hydration, and hopefully it doesn’t catch up with us, and we continue to hydrate when we come off runs,” said Haire.

And while focusing on fluids is the main part of staying cool for them, scene awareness is a huge portion of the pie.

“We use sense about when we go on a scene,” said Haire. “If you’re getting hot and getting worked up, there’s other people there to do that. We have rotations, we have rehab available to us to set up, and help us to replenish ourselves a little.”

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