As if fighting fires wasn’t difficult enough, Middlefield firefighters faced an additional challenge Monday - outdoor temperatures approaching 90 degrees.
“It’s extremely warm out today,” said Middlefield Fire Lt. Brian Dumas. “It could be more humid, make it more miserable but it would be good if it cooled down a little bit.”
Middlefield Fire Chief Peter Tyc described the fire as moderate and says it was knocked down in just 15 minutes. Still, with the summer’s heat, the challenge was anything but small.
“The equipment we wear weighs over 80 pounds,” explained Tyc. “Even on the coldest day you get hot in your gear.”
During summer months Middlefield firefighters say they need to rotate firefighters more frequently, keeping them fresh and hydrated.
“It means that we need more people,” said Tyc. “People that usually can do work for 15 or 20 minutes can only do five to 10 minutes of work.”
To assist with personnel, Middlefield received mutual aid from three nearby departments; Durham, Killingworth and Westfield.
“Right now we’re doing the best with what we have,” said Assistant Chief Steven Tyc. “We might have guys going into the house two or three times instead of just going in once. Coming out, cooling off.”
Firefighters estimate the ceiling temperature inside the home today was close to 1000 degrees, so despite the outdoor temperatures, there was relief outside.
“Just coming out, obviously, even if it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s gonna feel a lot cooler than it was in there,” added Steven Tyc.
Although the Middlefield fire was confined to the kitchen, firefighters say the smoke damage inside the home has made it unlivable. The good news, no one was hurt.
Middlefield firefighters aren’t the only ones dealing with this week’s heat. Firefighters around the state, including Middletown, are dealing with this challenge.
“It takes a beating on your body.” says Middletown Deputy Fire Chief Albert Leary. “It’s an extra strain on the men and women of the fire department, we have to rotate more often and get larger crews in.”
Middletown Fire says they normally allow firefighters to stay in a structure until two oxygen bottles are depleted. In the hot summer days though, that time is limited and cut in half.
“They go in with a bottle. When that air pack is depleted they come out,” said Lieutenant, Bob Quale.
Staying hydrated is paramount. Middletown lieutenants mandate firefighters drink water as soon as their shift begins and continue throughout the day.
“It’s extremely taxing on your body with the heat,” said Lt. Keith Clark. “It’s a physical job to begin with but the heat just adds stress.”
With several days reaching 90 degrees already this week and more of the same to come, these firefighters are preparing the best they can.
Fortunately for Middletown firefighters there’s only been one small fire this week and they’re hoping it stays that way.