Firefighters Face Heat Exhaustion

The heat is taking a toll on those who work to keep us safe. Three Vernon Firefighters are recovering from heat exhaustion. They each became ill while fighting a fire in Lockett Monday. Fire Officials say heat is on the minds of fire crews, but at the front of thought is fighting flames.

The fire started in a field and spread toward structures. Several outbuildings were consumed, but the flames were bearing down on a family home.  Stopping it was the first priority. "When you're out there, you're not really thinking about what the heat can do to you, you want to get the job done," said Fire Marshal Danny Rozzell.

Firefighters have several sets of clothing to wear while working. While on grass fires, they wear a leather suit called wild land gear. For structure fires – that require additional protection -  they wear thicker fireproof suits called bunker gear. The suits are lined – usually with Nomex insulation – and are hot, heavy and uncomfortable.

Since this fire had already involved structures, the crew was wearing bunker gear. "You sweat a lot inside. You dehydrate quick if you don't watch it," said Rozzell.

When the situation allows, fire officials try to rotate out staff on a fire. "After a certain period of time, get some fresh guys in there so the guys don't overheat," explained Rozzell. Since this fire was out in Wilbarger County, there were not as many men available. "We keep plenty of water and Gatorade on hand but sometimes when you don't have enough people, its hard for them to just stop what they are doing and go get a drink because they are busy," he said.

Each man was released from the hospital and is doing fine.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6