Hot temperatures causing problems for local firefighters

Local firefighters try to keep cool in the heat after fireman passes out fighting fire

Posted:
A firefighter collapsed Wednesday responding to a fire. A firefighter collapsed Wednesday responding to a fire.
"You have three layers of clothing," explained Knoxville firefighter Al Ludwig. "It's very insulated. You have a cotton-type quilting material and the middle layer is plastic, so the barriers are trapping your own body heat." "You have three layers of clothing," explained Knoxville firefighter Al Ludwig. "It's very insulated. You have a cotton-type quilting material and the middle layer is plastic, so the barriers are trapping your own body heat."
A firefighter cools off with the mist feature on the truck. A firefighter cools off with the mist feature on the truck.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Three volunteer firefighters in Anderson County become overwhelmed by the heat while battling a fire Wednesday.

One of those firefighters even sent to the hospital after passing out.

The flames sparked Wednesday evening at European Import Auto Parts on Clinton Highway.

Two of the firefighters were treated at the scene, while the third has now been released from the hospital and is recovering at home.

Wednesday's scare puts a big spotlight on the dangers of fighting fires during these hot summer months.  

Knoxville Fire Department Captain DJ Corcoran says they work hard to make sure their firefighters stay hydrated, but sometimes it is very hard to do when the temperatures get into the 90s.

He say their number one priority is to make sure their firefighters stay hydrated before and during an actual fire.    

What makes fighting fires so dangerous in the summer months is all the gear you have to wear.

"You have three layers of clothing," explained Knoxville firefighter Al Ludwig. "It's very insulated. You have a cotton-type quilting material and the middle layer is plastic, so the barriers are trapping your own body heat."

Ludwig says within 15 minutes of working at a fire, a firefighter's body temperature can increase to well over 100 degrees.

Along with having plenty of water, many area firetrucks also have nozzles that provide a mist for firefighters to cool down in.

Firefighters also make sure to rotate and to take plenty of breaks while battling a blaze.

For volunteer firefighters, getting a break is sometimes difficult.

"We don't have a lot of the man power," said Claxton Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Chip Johnson.

Johnson says they only have 25 volunteers with their department, and many of them have worked all day before coming to work on a fire.

This included the 21-year-old firefighter that was sent to the hospital Wednesday.

"He came from his regular job," said Johnson. "I think he worked 10 hours yesterday, and then came straight to the fire. He was at the fire for three hours before this happened."

All of the firefighters 6 News spoke with say they keep a close eye on each other just in case one of them does get too hot.

Corcoran says there are signs if a firefighter is getting overheated, including stopping sweating and getting really tired.

The Knoxville Fire Department also has several rehabilitation trucks that they use to keep their firefighters cool. 

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