If you are anywhere near Texas, you might be feeling the anguish of the hot weather. I'm more of a fall kinda gal myself. Give me sweaters, coffee, and falling leaves and I'm a pretty happy camper. I was expressing my disgust about the recent hot weather to a friend of mine who also happens to be a volunteer firefighter.
"You think this is hot," he said. "Try fighting a fire in this kind of weather."
So that got me wondering, how does it feel to fight a fire on a day like this...
Firefighters' union president Steve Cassidy says heat stress can be so severe it can feel exactly like a heart attack. “You become almost paralyzed,” says Cassidy. “Sometimes they can’t even take their own coat off. They need someone to help them get out of their gear.”
That gear is one of the very reasons these firefighters overheat. They have to be fully encapsulated – not a speck of skin can be exposed to the blistering temperatures.
So just how much weight is all this gear? Well, the thick, heavy coat along with boots, pants, gloves and a radio weigh about 30 pounds. Then there's the oxygen tank. That’s about another 30 pounds. Oh but there’s more. A tool bag may go over your shoulder as well a 50-foot hose over the other. At this point, we're talking about 130 pounds of gear.
Cassidy says that inside a suit during a hot day, a person’s core body temperature can soar to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And heart rates can reach 220 beats per minute.
Imagine going up seven flights of stairs, NY Firefighter Shane Clarke says. “The first couple floors fly,” he says, “and then your body starts to catch up, and you’re like, alright, this is getting hard and every step becomes a little heavier. It feels like the 23rd mile of a marathon, you know? Where you start to feel like you’re hitting the wall, but you just gotta keep going.”
Next time you step out from the comfy a/c of your home into the oven-like temps outside, take a moment to think about your local firefighters.