ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Heat waves don’t stop firefighters from continuing their duty to protect the community from fires.
However, their gear can only protect their bodies so much from high temperatures.
Firefighters’ suits contain several layers of protection that allow them to enter flames with minimal damage. Altoona Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Adam Free said that the uniform is comprised of three layers.
“There’s an outer shell that protects us from any cuts and things like that, there’s a moisture barrier, and there’s a thermal barrier that protects from the heat,” Free said.
Free said it’s crucial to continuously rotate their team and ensure they stay hydrated when battling fires. Since none of their suits have any cooling system, they must monitor everyone’s body temperatures.
“Our suits are made to protect us from the environment of the fire, protects from the heat, but in hot weather, it can hold the heat in,” Free said. “So, we got to be careful with our crews when we sent them into fires that we’re rotating out. Giving them proper time to come out, cool down, hydrate.”
That’s why fire departments appreciate any water donations. Water cases are helpful when they’re out on the field in maintaining body temperatures.
But water is also needed for the fire department’s friends on four paws. Acting Fire Inspector Justin Smithmyer noted that their K-9 arson dog Lucille doesn’t have the kind of protection that firefighters’ suits have. He noted that it’s crucial to monitor Lucille during her work to prevent overheating and exhaustion.
Unfortunately, they don’t have the ability to try to dissipate the heat as we do. We’re able to take layers off to cool ourselves down,” Smithmyer said. “They’re stuck with their coats on 24/7. They do have a built-in mechanism to cope with the heat; however, as a handler, you do have to watch very carefully to make sure they stay hydrated.”
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So, as temperatures continue to rise this summer remember your local fire department and donate cases of water whenever you’re able to. You can contact your local fire department to donate and instructions on where water can be dropped off.