FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fayetteville's Fire Department is taking special precautions to protect firefighters from the sweltering temperatures during the ongoing heat waves this summer. The department's Captain Stephen Shakeshaft explains that having an abundance of equipment and manpower is key to keeping crews safe while battling fires.
"Anytime we're experiencing an extreme heat wave we make sure to send extra resources to calls that may require extra breaks. So whether it's a structure fire or an outside woods fire, we have a set amount of resources we send to those calls," said Shakeshaft. "That way, folks get the extra break that they need to stay hydrated and stay cool."
As part of their protection crews wear tanks called "air bottles" on their backs for air supply when responding to fires.
"Under normal circumstances, our firefighters are allowed to work through two bottles of air on a fire," Shakeshaft said. "During these times, typically we limit them to one. So we send those extra resources so that every time they go in and do some work, and work through an air bottle, they can then take a break, rehydrate, cool down, and we have extra people to fill those gaps."
Nationwide, there have been just over 60 firefighter deaths this year according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Shakeshaft says the Fayetteville Fire Department has not seen an uptick in fires or fire-related deaths or injuries among their fighters during recent heatwaves. However, outside fires are more common at this time of year because there is less rain and surfaces are drier, especially in the woods.
Shakeshaft warned the public, especially people who work outside, to stay hydrated and take advantage of cooling centers. He also advised people to be careful when partaking in summer activities like playing with fireworks. That kind of risky summer fun can turn into a major blaze.
"If you're using fireworks, and those fireworks leave the ground? Remember, those are illegal in North Carolina for a reason," Shakeshaft said. "And when things are extra dry, all it takes is the smallest spark from a firework, or from your outdoor fire pit or recreational fire pit to spread to your neighbor's home as we continue to grow in population. So we need to be careful with those things."