Not just outdoor workers who struggle during heat wave

Working in attics to repair A/C sometimes overlooked 'hot' job

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you thought it was hot Wednesday, imagine battling a blaze under the blazing sun.

Jacksonville firefighters working to put out a mobile home fire on April Street near Ken Road in Jacksonville Heights had to swap out every 15 minutes and spend time in a medical cooling bus.

"This heat has been killing them. It took us probably twice as many units, as usual, to put out this fire, a trailer fire this size. We had to rotate crews. It's a hot, miserable day," said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Patrick Gouin. "We have a rehab unit on scene checking vital signs, giving them fluids. We're getting 10-15 minutes of work out of these guys and that's about it."

Gouin said one firefighter suffered a burn to his neck.

No other injuries were reported. The mobile home may have been vacant, as firefighters searched the structure and found it “all clear.” 

Firefighters aren't the only ones who have to work outside even in oppressive heat. Construction workers, road repair crews and roofers all have to take precautions during a heat advisory like the one Jacksonville had Wednesday.

Another sometimes overlooked “hot” job is the air-conditioning repair business.

RELATED: How to stay safe with temps feeling up to 111°

Installing ductwork in an attic this time of year can be one of the hottest jobs around. Temperatures in an attic without working A/C can reach 180 degrees.

Mike Powell, of Climate Masters air-conditioning repair, said crews have to think cold thoughts, drink lots of water and take frequent breaks.

“I compare this to one of the hottest jobs to do,” Powell said. “We have to take our time, and if you start feeling chills, you know you definitely got to get down a lot. And we drink a lot of ice water. We are not up there longer than 20 minutes at a time.”

Powell's gauge read 127.5 degrees Wednesday. He said around 160 degrees is when it gets too hot to handle.

“It’s so hot you just can’t walk up there. That’s one when you pull down these ladders in the heat, just floors you in the face,” Powell said. “You get to where it starts to get in your eyes and you can’t see and you know you got to get down. You have to limit yourself.”

Powell said it's important for workers to pay attention to their bodies and watch for chills, which can be a sign of heat stroke.

Powell said not everyone can stand the heat, but his crew will do all they can to make a home safe and cool for all of their clients. 

“Especially if the elderly lose their air-conditioning -- we will rotate crews in and out,” Powell said. “We take care of them like that. We have to do it.”

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