Hot weather causes extra concern at house fire

August 4, 2011 2:35:53 PM PDT
A house fire in the West University area is just one of many that crews across our area were called to on Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters had to deal with 100-degree temperatures even before they put on pounds of protective gear or even got close to the flames. No one was hurt at this scene, but two firefighters were taken to a hospital for heat exhaustion.

The flames stretched several feet above the two-story home on Watts near Kirby, and within a few minutes, they leaped to the one-story home next door. Authorities say the residents at both homes were not injured.

But for firefighters, the intense heat outside was as dangerous as the flames. A second alarm was called for extra manpower to help put out the flames in both homes as well as provide relief for firefighters. Hundred-degree heat coupled with wearing over 60 pounds of gear means firefighters were ordered to rotate every 20 minutes to avoid heat exhaustion.

"We try to keep to one air bottles, typically around 20 to 30 minutes. We get our crews out, get them into rehab, get them cooled off, get them hydrated, get another crew in there," HFD Chief Blake White said.

At its height, over 70 firefighters were available to rotate. Those not fighting the fire wer told to rehydrate.

"All we can do is call for that extra personnel early, get them out here early and make sure we have people to rotate in and out. That's the only way we can handle it," White said.

Authorities say the firefighters are going to be OK. They were treated at Memorial Hermann Hospital and released.

Houston fire investigators say an electrical short sparked this 2-alarm blaze. They say the fire caused an estimated $95,000 in damage.

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