Firefighters not only fight fires but battle heat, too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"If they need us, we go to them," he explained. "If we needthem, 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 assetthat we have."

To protect those assets, the Jonesboro Fire Departmentequips 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 oftenprovide areas for firefighters to cool off during a fire.

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

On particularly hot days, Dunn says the Jonesboro FireDepartment 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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