Firefighters explain how they stay healthy while fighting wildfires

Fire chief and firefighters discuss how they keep themselves and hydrated and safe while fighting wildfires.
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 8:38 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Firefighters have been putting out one wildfire after another, and nonstop work on very little sleep can make a big impact. 7NEWS got some more insight into how they maintain their health despite the pressure of saving lives in the community.

Hudson Gros has been a firefighter for a little over a year and has never had to deal with this kind of pressure.

“The intensity of the fire was crazy, yesterday on the fire we had over there, we staged our engines on the road waiting for that fire to come through,” Gros said. “That’s a pretty intense feeling to know that we have to make a stop to this fire.”

High temperatures and heavy gear weighing thirty or more pounds don’t make their jobs any easier.

So, how do they do it? firefighter, Madison Schietzelt said a little humor helps.

“It’s already a stressful situation. It’s hot out, people are hungry, dehydrated, you know say a little jokes over the radio and things like that, I think has really helped us because I was telling the guys, I said if everyone was grumpy, we would be having a horrible time,” Schietzelt said.

Levity is helpful, but there are major physical and mental health concerns. Houston River Fire Chief Dean Lappe explained how he ensures safety for his team.

“We rehab our people every 20 minutes, they work for 20 minutes then they are out of the woods doing what they need to do to get rehab and rehydrated, we make that happen,” Lappe said.

In addition to the 20-minute breaks, health surveys are conducted by an ambulance crew that travels with the team. Blood pressure is checked, and I-V fluids are administered as needed.

Gros even shared one unique trick that helps.

“If were wearing our bunker pants we still have pants underneath. So, we unbuckle it, drop them down to our knees, and let that air flow and if we have jackets, we take our jackets off, especially our gloves and our helmets,” Gros said.

Along with a host of other practices, including prayer, the team has managed to continue to fight Louisiana wildfires.

“I’m thankful for the people at this department who are so caring, loving, and supportive,” Schietzelt said.