Temperatures in a structure fire can reach up to 800 degrees. While firefighters’ personal protection gear can keep them from the dangers of a fire — during the summer months the gear itself can be harmful.
Capt. Wade Millsap is a Safety Officer for the San Angelo Fire Department.
“We have a bunker coat, and we have bunker pants…,” explained Millsap as he showed us firefighters’ personal protective equipment, or PPE.
When reporting to a fire, all firefighters have to wear PPE. While it protects them from the elements of a fire, during the hotter months the gear can actually cause more harm than good.
Altogether, the personal protective equipment can weigh up to 60 pounds. During the summer months, all of the layers in it actually make it even harder for firefighters’ body heat to be released .
“The bunker gear that they wear has a moisture barrier, a thermal barrier and a vapor barrier. As good as it is to protect them from the elements in the structure fires, it also contains all that heat when they’re in there,” said Fire Chief Brian Dunn.
During this time of year rehab, or getting immediate re-hydration and medical attention after fighting a fire, is essential. Firefighters’ bodies can lose water as easily as they retain heat. Chief Dunn recommends his firemen hydrate the night before working their shifts.
“If they catch a good structure fire, they may lose 8-10 pounds in body water weight,” explained Dunn.
Firefighters also have to be relieved more often when fighting a fire during the summer months.
“You cannot stay in nearly as long, especially during the summer months, as you can when it’s cooler outside,” added Millsap.