AUBERRY, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE) – With the rising temperatures like the Central Valley has seen recently, there is also rising concern over firefighters’ health as they battle the Power Fire burning near Auberry.
The fire has burned 115 acres with containment at 20%.
On Wednesday, another firefighter was injured and rushed to the hospital with a heat-related illness while fighting the fire.
This brings the total to four firefighters sent to the hospital with heat-related illnesses.
As temperatures increase throughout the day, fire crews are trying to prevent even more injuries.
“Our emphasis today was to take frequent breaks, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate,” said Battalion Chief Roger Raines with Fresno-Kings Cal Fire Unit.
He is the incident command lead, and part of his responsibility is making sure his firefighters on the ground are safe and staying cool, with temperatures set to be well above the triple digits.
“Obviously we’re in some record-setting temperatures even for us. I know we’re used to working in the heat but even for us this is pretty significant,” said Raines.
The heat is so significant that fire crews are trying to use as many helicopter water drops as possible.
“Probably some of the toughest terrain we have in Fresno County to fight fire in is in this Powerhouse and this San Joaquin River gorge area,” he said.
Tough terrain that hand crews play a major part in, making sure that any smoke spots or hotspots on the ground are taken care of.
Even with their 50 extra pounds of tools and equipment, this is what fire crews have trained for.
“When they train, they train with all of their stuff on. Most of our firefighters do daily conditioning hikes with all of their gear on. Everything that they would be wearing on this fire they would be wearing on their conditioning hikes,” said Raines.
With one eye on his firefighters in the heat, Raines is keeping another on the fire itself during these hot and dry conditions.
“Our issue is really the spot fires that may be outside of the line that we can’t see until the heat of the day, sometimes they’ll pop up right away, and sometimes they may take a couple hours but hopefully we don’t have any,” said Raines.
As for those firefighters that were injured Tuesday, they have since been released from the hospital and they will not be on the front lines for some time, they’ll be off duty to fully recover.