How Do Wildland Firefighters Cope With Triple-Digit Heat?

Jul 14, 2014

Crews battling wildfires in eastern Washington and southeastern Oregon are dealing with sizzling hot temperatures of a heat wave.

Firefighters are gaining ground this weekend despite the wilting heat. Four of the five largest fires are nearly 100 percent contained.

You can't wear shorts and a T-shirt to a firefight, so how do you stay cool and functional when the thermometer is pushing triple digits? "The main thing is to stay hydrated" and pace yourself, according to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Anderson.

"They [the firefighters] don't want to get exhausted. So they work at a pace that is equal to the temperature and the amount of energy they're putting out. And then they monitor themselves all the time,” Anderson said.

Anderson says that strategy is working in Entiat, Washington, the scene of the largest wildfire currently burning in the Northwest. The blaze in central Washington state has already chewed through 34 square miles of grass and scattered timber.

But Anderson says fire crews have successfully defended nearby homes and are increasing containment. Investigators have not figured out the cause of the fire.