Firefighters work to beat the heat while they battle fires - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Firefighters work to beat the heat while they battle fires

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

It was an eventful Sunday for local firefighters who spent hours battling a fire in the hot sun on June 10.

"It was really hot," said Rob Bailey, a firefighter with the Bellmead Fire Department. "There was a lot of tires burning, a lot of thick black smoke. It was just really hot."

Firefighters from Bellmead, Waco, Lacy-Lakeview and Elm Mott worked together to put out hot spots throughout a wooded area in a Waco neighborhood just north of Baylor University.

"That was probably the worst brush fire that we've had," Bailey said.

Bellmead Fire Chief William Hlavenka said current weather conditions are giving outdoor fires an advantage and hurting those who try to put them out.

"You start getting hot and everything else, then you got heat exhaustion that could possibly hit or even a heat stroke so that's why you're pulling your people out," Chief Hlavenka said.

Firefighters also have to wear fire-resistant pants, a heavy jacket and steel-plated booted that heat them up pretty quickly.

"You throw an air pack on and you're adding another 30, 40 pounds," Bailey said. 

That's where the Heart of Texas Fire Corps comes in to help. On Sunday, a team arrived on scene to provide food, water, cool air and shade to firefighters.

"We try to put them in a cool vest, get their body temperature back down, that immediately sees a color change in their skin. Then we see a body change, they're not slumped over as much. They stand up with confidence and they are ready to go back out there," said Cdr. Jeff Wilhelm with the Heart of Texas Fire Corps. 

Cdr. Wilhelm said they treated more than three dozen firefighters as they worked to put out the grass fire. 

"They were worn out pretty fast because that call came in right in the middle of the hot part of the day and out there in the sun, you don't get any break at all," said Cdr. Wilhelm.

The rehab station kept the firefighters at their best while they tackled a dangerous job.

"You know, heat stroke heat exhaustion, things like that," Bailey said. "Then you end up in the hospital and you're not going to do yourself any good doing, so stay hydrated."

Chief Hlavenka is allowing his team to wear shorts during these next few months to offset the high temperatures. He said they are one of the few departments in the state to make this accommodation.

Cdr. Wilhelm added that the Heart of Texas Fire Corps needs all the help it can get this summer. If you are interested in making a monetary donation or donating supplies, you can call 254-227-1713.

They are also in need of volunteers. No first responder experience is necessary. 

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