New York Today: Fighting Fire in the Heat


New York City firefighters on the job in Harlem.

Harrison Hill/The New York Times

Updated, 11:50 a.m.

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.

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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…

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