New York Today: Fighting Fire in the Heat

NY Times - July 17, 2017


An activity being carried out by the Fire Department at 145th Street in Manhattan has disrupted some train services. Here’s what you might need to know for your morning commute:

Uptown and downtown A train service between 125th and Inwood-207th Streets in Manhattan has been suspended, as well as B train service between Bedford Park Boulevard in The Bronx and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

C train service in both directions, between Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn and 168 Street in Manhattan, has also been suspended. No D train service available between 125th and Norwood-205th Streets in Manhattan. Some D trains are terminating at 36th Street in Brooklyn, West 4th Street-Washington Square or 34th Street-Herald Square in Manhattan.

We’ll keep you posted on the morning commute as we learn more.

Good morning on this bright and balmy Monday.

Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-80s today, which got us wondering: Which job gets exceptionally hot in the summer heat?

Try that of fighting a fire.

New York City firefighters respond to emergencies wearing more than 100 pounds of equipment in thick, insulated suits — a uniform that can raise a person’s body temperature above 100 degrees. Because of this, firefighters are at increased risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and, in extreme cases, heat stroke.

We visited Engine Company 54 in Manhattan to find out how the New York Fire Department keeps its firefighters safe during the summer.

“You sweat profusely and immediately as soon as you put everything on,” said Colin Maxwell, a firefighter, over a glass of water.

The department encourages firefighters to drink more fluids than usual and to eat a light diet when it’s hot, said John Hodgens, a deputy assistant chief.

The Fire Department also takes precautions in the field:

More firefighters. “We get more staffing on the scene so that we can relieve our members more quickly than we would in normal, cool weather,” Chief Hodgens said.

Removing equipment. After being relieved from a fire, firefighters make their way to a designated Recuperation and Care Unit, a truck known as a RAC unit, outside the scene. There, they remove their equipment — insulated boots, pants, jacket, helmet, harness, self-contained breathing tank and heavy tools — to quickly cool off.

Towels and fans. The care units provide the firefighters with liquids, wet towels and misting fans. Each of the five boroughs has a RAC unit staffed by one worker. But during the warmest days of the summer, an additional truck is deployed, and each is staffed by an additional person Chief Hodgens said.

Injuries are most common during consecutive days of high temperatures, said James Long, the director of public information for the Fire Department.

Firefighter Maxwell recalled experiencing dizziness caused by heat a couple of months into the job in 2015. He was fighting a fire on the fourth floor of a building on 10th Avenue when he started seeing white spots.

“I started to get dizzy,” he said. “I don’t think I recognized it because, you know, I was a new guy and wanted to prove that I was tough, but my officer and the guy next to me noticed me panting.”

He recovered quickly with a respiratory mask, but he wondered if it would have happened had he been properly hydrated.