JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Firefighters are used to feeling the heat, but the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department says it was being stretched thin.
So a few months ago it decided to step up its response, and with temperatures reaching the mid-90s the last few weeks, the department says the change is well worth it.
Firefighters are trained to handle rising temperatures, smoke, poor visibility and other challenges thrown at them in the heat of the moment. But that doesn't mean the trained professionals can't get tired.
"Our firefighters put their lives on the line every day, running in these burning homes, climbing in ditches for public safety," said Randy Wyse, of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters. "That's what their job is, to save the public. We've started to take a step back and say, 'OK, we really are pushing our firefighters to the physical limits, so what we want to make sure we do is, if something happens to them, there's somebody to help them.'"
Wyse said most firefighters will go through two or three tanks of air during any given structure fire, and sometimes they'll tire out after just one and need rehab. Wyse said that's where the extra response comes in handy.
"They're actually sending an extra rescue unit there just to be able to deal with the firefighters, rehab them, hydrate them, cool them down, check their vitals, make sure they're good, and then put them back on the scene," Wyse said.
He said there are three fire units around town that are in charge of responding as backup to the fires. Wyse said they're also there just in case something goes wrong.
"They'll stand by in case a firefighter gets lost, trapped or injured, that can respond to them really quickly, in full protective gear, get them out of the house and quickly," Wyse said.
He said an extra fire chief will show up as well to inspect the building and make sure things are getting done right and let anyone know if there are electrical lines down.
Wyse said the extra response helps, but it also limits the response for the rest of the city. He said there is room for growth in places like the Westside and the Town Center area, and he thinks looking into the budget for ways to fill that gap is the next step.
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