COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Flames are the most obvious concern for Columbia firefighters, but these heroes are just as concerned as heat from Mother Nature.
“Heat the worst danger for firefighters especially in the summertime,” Chief Albert Owusu, Columbia Fire Department Health and Safety Chief said.
They are encouraged to drink a gallon to a gallon and a half of water every day and to start thinking about adequate hydration way before they get to work.
“Hydration does not start when you come on shift. Firefighters hydration starts, two or three days ahead of the day he comes on the shift. He is supposed to be constantly drinking fluids mostly water,” says Owusu.
Columbia firefighters estimate the almost 75 pounds of equipment they have to wear makes it feel 20 to 30 degrees hotter before they begin work.
Once they get to an active fire, a rehab truck meets them there. In addition to their diligent hydration, the truck has water, protein bars, and sports drinks high in electrolytes ready to refill them instantly after being in the summer heat.
Firehouse Subs is hosting a H2O for Heroes bottled water collection drive to help stock up departments.
The public can go to any Firehouse Subs location and donate water on Saturday, Aug. 3. It benefits local firefighters.
Anyone who donates a 24-pack of water will get a free medium sub from Firehouse Subs.
Dehydration is a real threat to first responders and citizens.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, 40 people have died from heat-related illness from 2013 to 2017.
Sixty-six people were sent to the hospital after exposure to heat or the sun, last year according to the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.
And according to the state officials, Last year 66 people were hospitalized in the state for a heat-related illness.
The advice from firefighters is the same for everyone as they use for themselves: hydrating before starting the day, drinking extra after having coffee, keeping sports drinks close by after strenuous exercise and excessive sweating.