Firefighters battle blaze and heat

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Neighbors rushed to the rescue in Gulfport when they saw flames and smoke billowing through the roof of a home, luckily no one was home.

But firefighters had to risk their lives running into the burning home on Stevens Circle during the hottest part of the day when the heat index was 108 degrees.

Lt. Greg Griffin was one of those firefighters.

He said, "Multiply that by ten, it's just, it's just so intense you feel like you are steaming."

Depending on where the firefighters are in the fire temperatures can reach 200 to 600 degrees, according to District Chief Hank Levins. Plus firefighters are lugging around up to 70 pounds of gear.

"Right now they are feeling pretty exerted because of the heat temperatures," Levins said, "In the beginning we have to really watch the guys because they have an adrenaline rush and go in there to put the fire out."

One of the first things firefighter safety officers have to do when they arrive on the scene is find an area where firefighters can rehab, like under a tree in the shade, where they can sit for about ten minutes and drink water to re-hydrate.

Griffin said, "A ten minute rest probably rejuvenates you about 50 percent."

With limited manpower the different departments who respond switch out every ten to 15 minutes. At one point two of the three departments were inside at the same time making the recovery time for some even shorter. Firefighters train for these intense situations all year round.

Levins said, "That's what these guys do. They are exercising and dieting correctly and hydrating themselves for this day."

Most importantly they are taught the signs of heat exhaustion and are trained to keep an eye out for each other.

"They show up as a team and go home as a team and that's the number one thing that we instill in our people," Levins said.

AMR also helps the fire department by responding to every call. They check on the firefighters for heat exhaustion as they rotate out of the fire.

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