Firefighters Battle Health Concerns in Hot Summer Temperatures

June 21, 2018 10:24 PM

Fire departments around Hennepin County are trying to keep firefighters safe on the job as the summer temperatures soar.

Several fires over Memorial Day weekend sent firefighters to the hospital, where they were treated for heat exhaustion. All were treated and released the same day they were admitted.


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But the hospitalizations reinforce the need for shorter work cycles at fire scenes and a specific area at the scene for firefighters to rest and hydrate.

Long Lake Assistant Fire Chief John Hall worked a house fire in Shorewood when the temperature outside climbed into the high 90s.

RELATED: Firefighters Battle Shorewood House Fire in 90 Degree Temps

"It was a lot of work," Hall said. "It was extreme heat. You already expel a lot of energy just in general, then in the extreme heat, it makes it that much worse."

It can also do a lot more damage.

George Esbensen is the fire chief in Eden Prairie. He also runs the nonprofit organization MN Fire, an initiative aimed at educating firefighters on the health risks of the job.

"They are going from zero to Mach 60 and they get that adrenaline," Esbensen said. "Then, that creates a hardship on your cardiac system."

Studies from the Centers for Disease Control show sudden cardiac death is the most common type of on-duty death for firefighters. In many cases it happens hours after the call is complete.

To help monitor and decrease the risk, eight departments in Hennepin County have the ability to deploy Life Saving Units to fire scenes.

The trailers are outfitted with mist machines, cooling chairs and a pop-up tent for shade. They also pack along monitors to measure blood pressure and vitals.

Hall said it's difficult to get his crews to cycle out and rest, but he said it's necessary to keep them healthy.

"They will work until they can't work anymore," Hall said.


Kirsten Swanson

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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