Fighting a raging grass fire is hard enough, especially when there's been so little rain this summer. Add to that 110 degree temperatures and the brave men and women who protect our land and our homes are susceptible to any number of heat related illnesses.
Jack Monroe has been a firefighter with the Bowman Volunteer Fire Department for more than 30 years. He said, "Being out in this heat like it is, you know, exertion. But staying hydrated is one thing that really helps."
Mike Rennels has only been with Bowman VFD for 8 months but even he knows the risks. He said, "If you don't stay hydrated it can sneak up on you real quick and it hits you hard."
Rennels recently got his license to drive the fire trucks, but things aren't always cool and calm in the cab. "It really takes a toll on a person even driving because you get so close to that fire sometimes you have to turn on the heater in order to cool the engine down or else your engine will stop. It gets hot."
Wichita Falls Assistant Fire Chief Bill Weske said, "We do have water, ice water, on the trucks. We also try and rotate guys in and out, give them breaks when we can. There's no timeout when you're fighting grass fires. You have to get after it."
In the midst of a Summer swelter, fire departments rely on their relationship with American Medical Response (AMR) to keep everyone safe.
Assistant Chief Weske said, "They're right here in case somebody falls out or ones down. We've got AMR right here so we can transport them to the hospital if we need to."
Monroe and Rennels both said having emergency responders on scene gave them a little more comfort. Monroe said, "It's really good to have them stand by at a fire scene where there's more than 2 pr 3 departments working a fire because you never know when you're going to have a fireman go down."
Rennels added, "Heat stroke, people passing out from smoke inhalation, just the heat itself. Staying hydrated is definitely the key when you're fighting fire."
Firefighters working in extreme outdoor conditions also wear lightweight Forest Service gear.
The material still provides fire protection but is less bulky than a traditional firefighters equipment.