Extreme Heat, Weather Tax Georgia's Responders

Aug. 22--Firefighters and police are taking precautions against a three-day heat wave hitting Augusta.

Taking breaks and staying hydrated have been stressed in both departments, which frequently work in the heat for lengthy periods.

Temperatures reached 100 degrees about 4 p.m. Friday in Augusta with an estimate heat index of 104. Meteorologists had already predicted the 100 degree weather to run through Saturday. Friday was the first time temperatures reached triple digits since 2012 when highs rose to 100 or higher six times.

The fire department is cycling out firefighters quicker while fighting fires than an average day, spokeswoman Dee Griffin said.

"With the heat inside a house, it can quickly become a furnace," she said of firefighter work conditions.

More engines will respond to a fire so firefighters have more people who can rotate through, giving them the rest and hydration they need, Griffin said.

Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Lewis Blanchard said two local bottling companies have donated water for officers. All supervisors carry coolers full of water in their vehicles.

"We allow them to take more breaks to stay hydrated," Blanchard said.

Officers who typically patrol on motorcycles or bicycles have the option of switching to some of the department's extra police cars.

Police K-9s are getting some extra use out of cooling vests donated to the sheriff's office from Project Paws Alive last year.

The cooling packs that go into the vests line the working dogs' bellies and can stay cold for three to four hours.

Deputy Patrick Cullinan, who is a K-9 handler, said he pays close attention to his German Shepherd Blecky on hot days to make sure she doesn't get overheated.

All K-9 patrol cars are also equipped with a "hot dog system." Even though K-9 cars stay running constantly for the dogs, the car is equipped to automatically lower the windows and turn on a rear fan if for some reason the vehicle's air conditioner stops running.

Copyright 2014 - The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.

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