MONCTON -- Firefighting is a dangerous job under any conditions, but when the temperature soars, the job becomes even more dangerous.

Water is an important lifeline for firefighters, not only for putting out a fire, but for protecting them from heat related illnesses.

“When the body temperature goes over 40 degrees, we’ve got to worry about heat stroke,” explains Paul Bruens, Platoon Chief of the Moncton Fire Department. “Heat stroke is when the body stops sweating and the core temperature starts rising, and it can become quite fatal.”

When the temperature soars, firefighters have two heat sources they need to protect themselves from.

“When a firefighter puts his gear on he’s adding over 100 pounds of weight to his body,” explains Bruens. It adds a lot of stress to the firefighter, very much so, so we have to be very cautious with that.”

The bunker or ‘turn-out’ gear designed to protect against the fire, acts as an oven for body heat.

“The gear is a barrier,” says Jacques Boudreau, a Moncton firefighter. “It doesn’t let the heat in but once your body starts heating up, the heat doesn’t get out, and gets trapped inside your gear.”

Fire departments will work closely with medics on scene from Ambulance New Brunswick, who monitor the firefighters and pull them off the job if they start to overheat.

Bruens adds that it’s important for firefighters to drink lots of liquids before being called to a job. All the fire trucks carry ample water and drinks containing electrolytes. 

Fans and cooling chairs are used to bring body temperatures back down.

“It’s just a normal folding chair that’s got two deep pockets that you can put your arms in, and we can put cool water in there and it helps reduce the body temperature,” explains Bruens.

An important tool for firefighters who are battling the heat, when they’re also battling a fire.