How firefighters avoid overheating during a response

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

NEWARK, AR (KAIT) - With temperatures and heat indexes in the triple digits, firefighters have to take extra precautions when battling fires.

A phone call sent Brad Cheatham to his business MCS Services in Newark around 5 Tuesday morning.

Cheatham, "When we got here the back of the building was already in flames and it spread fast all through out. There was already a local fire department on the scene."

With overnight temperatures hovering around the 80's and high humidity, Assistant Fire Chief Michael Powell knew he needed help to augment his limited number of firefighters.

Powell, "It was warm and very humid. We didn't have much of a breeze like we do now. So it was hard us just environmentally."

Powell, "This is a full volunteer fire department anywhere from 10 - 15 usually depending on time of day and work schedules. "

Cheatham said they tried to help the fire fighters as much as they could.

"We opened some doors and windows to let them get in and try and get to the fire and get everything under control."

Fire fighting is hard work. A fully charged line can weigh 400 pounds for every 50 feet. Turnouts get water soaked and heavy and add on boots, helmet and an air tank it's a real work out.

Powell, "You run into a lot of weight when you are pulling on the hose with the water and the pressure that's in the hose."

At one time there were nearly 30 firefighters from 8 different departments including Newark, Newport, Batesville, Oil Trough, Thida, Sulphur Rock, Cord and Charlotte. Primarily on scene for manning assistance.

Powell, "Safety is your number one concern."

A fire fighter can quickly tire and become dangerously overheated. Volunteers, erected shade tents once the sun came up, turned on fans and made sure there was plenty of water.

Powell,  We try about every 15 - 20 minutes to rotate your people in and out. Where we can get some down in the shade, hydrated."

A lot of water went in to replace what was sweat out as they battled the large blaze.

Cheatham, "The fire department was great, they were on the scene really quick."

Powell, "For what we generally handle here in Newark, yeah this was one of the larger ones we had recently."

Chief Powell said heat hasn't put anybody down this summer.

"We've been able to get everybody in fresh, hydrated and we haven't had any heat issues to this point."

Temperatures are expected to stay high for the next several weeks.

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