Edmonton's blazing weather an extra danger for heat-resistant firefighters

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The heat wave currently enveloping Edmonton brings an “added challenge” for the men and women tasked with fighting fires.

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Edmonton Fire Rescue Services spokeswoman Brittany Lewchuk said the outside heat means firefighters in heavy gear face elevated body temperatures even before entering burning structures.

“To mitigate this, during heat waves, we rotate the crews more frequently to ensure firefighters are getting breaks, monitoring their temperature levels and most importantly, that they are staying hydrated,” Lewchuk said. “Firefighters can also remove the bunker coats in between job duties if needed.”

She said speciality crews like the hazmat team will wear cooling vests under their personal protective equipment while the technical rescue team can continue to use fire resistant coveralls.

“At large-scale events, we will establish a rehab centre providing shade, medical attention and hydration stations,” Lewchuk said.

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Despite the heat, there are no current fire restrictions or bans in Edmonton. However, Lewchuk said there is always fire risk.

“Practise caution when using fire pits, barbecues, or open flames during dry and/or windy weather,” she said.

“It is important to never leave them unattended as stray embers have the potential to travel and ignite nearby combustibles or vegetation. Always ensure that embers and ashes are fully extinguished before leaving the area.”

Smoking materials should be properly discarded to avoid undetected smouldering, she said. Residents are also reminded to take extra care by ensuring anything that can burn is at least 1.5 metres away from a home, including dead vegetation and waste.

A firefighter fights a residential house fire from an aerial ladder in southwest Edmonton on June 13, 2021.
A firefighter fights a residential house fire from an aerial ladder in southwest Edmonton on June 13, 2021. Photo by Larry Wong /POSTMEDIA NETWORK

A list of fire bans and restrictions in Alberta can be found at albertafirebans.ca.

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For those using electric fans or an air conditioner unit to help stay cool, make sure to check for frayed cords or other electrical hazards.

Lewchuk also recommends attending a professional fireworks show instead of discharging them on your own. For anyone planning to use fireworks in Edmonton, a permit must be obtained first.

As many will find reprieve from the warm weather in lakes or rivers, Lewchuk shared some additional safety tips. For those considering using the North Saskatchewan River, they should always scout, assess, and cecide from the shore before entering the water.

Individuals should scout the river for potential hazards and check the weather, water conditions and flow rates by visiting rivers.alberta.ca.

Assess the level of danger and check for advisories regarding the body of water through social media or by calling 311. The swimming and paddling skills of everyone under an individual’s supervision should also be assessed before deciding if it is safe to enter the water.

It is always recommended that life jackets are worn when in or on the water.

ajunker@postmedia.com

twitter.com/junkeranna

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