Heat Tough on Firefighters

MECHANICSVILLE, VA (WWBT) - This heat is tough on everyone who goes outside - but it could be the toughest on firefighters. These hot temperatures are making it that much harder to put out fires.

Most of us wear shorts and a t-shirt to stay cool when the temperature is this high, but that's not an option for Hanover Firefighter Michael Blagmon.

"It's pretty warm, definitely," Blagmon said, who has to wear heavy pants and a jacket when he goes into a burning home. In all, it adds 74 pounds of extra weight.

His gear is designed to fend off the heat of a fire. But the flip side is it doesn't let his body heat out either.

"You got the heat of the fire, your body is not getting rid of the heat, you have the heat of the outside temperature," he said.  "It's definitely pretty challenging."

Firefighters say they can only work ten minutes at a time when it's this hot. All of them have to take breaks to avoid heat exhaustion or a heat stroke.

With firefighters able only to work for a few minutes at a time in this heat, more people will have to be called out to battle a blaze. That means more crews from stations farther away will have to respond to each one of these emergencies.

"If we have a house fire, I immediately call for extra help to help," said Battalion Chief William Jones.  "I know my original crews can't go back in because they're spent so I would send fresh crews in to extinguish the fire."

Budget cuts have already forced the fire department to move firefighters around to keep more stations open.

Firefighters say they're going to have to play it safe until the weather cools off.

"Know your limitations," Blagmon said.  "Try to take breaks as needed. Don't over exert yourself."

Fire officials say they need about 50 percent more firefighters when working in this heat.

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