Firefighters not only fight fires but battle heat, too - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Firefighters not only fight fires but battle heat, too

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Imagine having to wear 40 to 50 pounds of gear during the heat wave that has kept an unbreakable grip on Northeast Arkansas recently.

That's the situation facing local firefighters every time they are called to an emergency. Because they're at a higher risk of dehydrating or overheating in this heat, fire officials have taken safety precautions to protect their staff in the line of duty.

Last week, a fire consumed a mobile home in Bono. The local fire department received assistance to fight the blaze from three neighboring departments, including volunteers from Philadelphia. Having to ask for additional help has become so crucial recently, as firefighters have used this to deal with the extreme heat.

"Mutual aid is critical whether it's hot, cold or indifferent because volunteers have trouble keeping people available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Danny Turner, the Philadelphia fire chief.

Turner has entered into mutual aid agreements with every department in Craighead County . That means emergency responders will lend assistance from one community to another when needed.

"Mutual aid is very important," Turner explained, "especially now because you can get more people to get the fire out sooner, have more man power to rotate in and out (of the heat). Mutual aid to neighboring departments is very essential in this type of weather."

Turner usually asks for extra help when his department battles grass fires or structure fires, and he can call upon any department in the surrounding area.

"If they need us, we go to them," he explained. "If we need them, they come to us."

"Obviously, our number one concern is for our firefighters," said Alan Dunn, the Jonesboro assistant fire chief. "That's our biggest asset that we have."

To protect those assets, the Jonesboro Fire Department equips its trucks to handle the heat. Water coolers are stocked every morning. Misting fans can be set up at a moment's notice, and local EMS providers often provide areas for firefighters to cool off during a fire.

"We encourage our firefighters to stay hydrated throughout the day so that when they do respond to a call, they're hydrated and ready to go," Dunn said.

On particularly hot days, Dunn says the Jonesboro Fire Department may also send another truck to a fire scene just in case. That way, more men are available to rotate with the ones battling the fire in the heat.

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