Cal Fire talks about what it’s like fighting fires in high temperatures

Local News

(KTXL) — High heat with high winds and low humidity are critical conditions that can lead to explosive wildfires.

That’s why there is a heightened alert when temperatures rise. 

Prior to training days, like at a controlled burn near Rancho Murieta, and before active fire fighting days, a morning weather briefing is a must. 

“We go in full discussion on how much the temperature has changed in the last day, the humidity, the winds, every single morning,” said Cal Fire firefighter Jaime Bardwell. 

During heat waves, firefighters have to battle the heat, which intensifies the closer they are to the flames. The heat can be felt right through protective clothing. 

Cutting fire lines in high temperatures with 20 to 30 pounds of gear can take its toll. 

Cal Fire firefighters carry a water container as well as a water bladder in their backpack kit to ward off dehydration and heat stroke. Bardwell says firefighters also have to be aware of their physical condition while trying to keep the heat out of mind. 

“Fighting fire, our mind is on a lot of other things, including putting the fire out,” Bardwell said. 

Fighting fire in triple-digit temperatures can be taxing physically as well as mentally. Training under those conditions can be a good thing, however. 

Live-fire training is sometimes a make or break situation for new recruits. 

“They find out, ‘OK, this is really what it’s like.’ It’s not always going to be mild day when you fight fires; it could be a hundred-plus degrees,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Mark Brunston. “You’re next to that really hot burning fire and you’re out there for many many hours.”

Supervisors monitor their crews closely during the hot weather and often during extended shifts. 

“Last year, we saw it first hand — Where we were working two three days at a time without getting off the line at all in these hot temperatures,” said Cal Fire Capt. Nick Pimlott. 

Their only consolation is that relief from the heat will come sooner or later. 

“Just know you’ll be back in AC eventually,” Bardwell said laughing. 

Cal Fire says physical conditioning is a must because firefighters can not pick and choose the weather conditions when they fight a fire. 

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