Firefighters stay safe in extreme heat with special 'rehab truck'

Posted at 4:52 AM, Jun 21, 2017

Heat comes with the territory when you're a firefighter but our Arizona summers add another layer of danger for Valley crews. That’s why you'll find extra resources here dedicated to keeping them safe on the fire lines.  

The Mesa Fire Department has a special "rehab truck" that is staffed by its own crew of firefighter/EMTs. 

Crews are already up against extreme conditions -- their gear weighs up to 75 pounds and when they step into a fire, temperatures can go up to 700 degrees. Taking a break and cooling down their bodies is critical but complicated when the outside temperature is 120.    

The rehab truck is deployed to every major scene equipped with more ice, water and sports drinks than they can carry on the regular fire trucks. Tents pop up for shade, misters go on and seats are set up so crews can get a true break.   

"If we have a fire out at a junkyard or the middle of nowhere we need to be able to provide our own shade," said Mesa Fire’s Deputy Chief Public Information Officer Forrest Smith.  

Paramedics who man the rehab truck also continually check everyone's vitals; blood pressure, pulse and a visual assessment of a firefighter’s condition that can signal heat exhaustion or worse -- heat stroke.  

"If you inhibit the body's ability to sweat and be able to cool down then your internal thermostat stops working," said Smith.  

During the summer, IVs are also kept on ice right along with the water to deliver cold saline which helps cool down the body’s core temperature as quickly as possible in a dangerous situation.

Thanks to shared resources, you might see the rehab trucks not just in Mesa but at other incidents around the Valley.