How firefighters stay cool when the heat is on

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Many people retreat to a the comfort of the air-conditioned indoors whenever the temperature gets too high, but some people's jobs keeps them outside in the heat.

Black Hills FOX Reporter Katrina Lim shows us how local firefighters prepare themselves for a scorching summer work day.

Physically demanding jobs can be exhausting, but they can get dangerous if you're out in the sun.

Now imagine throwing a roaring blaze on top of all that.

Whenever they fight structure fires, firefighters need to wear bunker gear, which consists of three layers.

That includes these boots, these pants, this jacket, this helmet, and an SCBA on their back, and by the time all of that's done, they're basically wearing an extra 45 lbs.

"It's very heavy. It keeps you cocooned basically in to keep you protected from the heat outside, but it also keeps the heat in as well," Damon Hartmann said.

Damon Hartmann has been with the Doty Volunteer Fire Department since 1995.

He's now their fire chief and serves as the deputy state fire marshal for South Dakota.

He rotates his firefighters out every 10 to 15 minutes to help keep them from overheating.

"If they're feeling like they're getting pretty warm, they're starting to get a little light-headed, we want them to step out, get their bunker coat open, let that core heat escape. When they get to that point where we get them to get their jacket off, we actually will apply ice packs to their forearms," Damon Hartmann said.

Dr. Daniel Franz says two ways to prepare for working outside are hydration and climatization.

"If they're going to go outside and expose themselves to hot weather, high humidity, and they haven't been out in those environments, it takes a while to get used to that and if they're not used to that, and they go out suddenly they're at much more risk for exertional heat illnesses," Dr. Daniel Franz said.

Dr. Franz says it takes about 10-14 days to acclimate yourself to working in the heat, but if you don't properly prepare, you might get a heat-related illness.

"First signs are usually cramping, muscle cramps. They can lead to excessive fatigue, light-headedness and dizziness. Even fainting or loss of consciousness can occur. And at the extremes can be seizures or death due to heat stroke," Dr. Daniel Franz said.

Despite the working conditions, Hartmann encourages everyone to join their local fire department whether as support personnel or an actual firefighter.