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Firefighters battle heat related illness and flames during extreme weather conditions

COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. – The heat is taking its toll on emergency responders across the Valley. One firefighter was rushed to the hospital in Colbert County Monday morning due to heat exhaustion after battling a house fire.

Firefighters were seeking shade and water as smoke continued to rise from the ruins of a home on the 8600 block of River Road. They began fighting the fire just before 4 a.m.

“These guys, they don’t know when to stop,” stated Justin Gasque, who is the Colbert County Coroner and a paramedic. “They don’t know their own limits, and that is why we try to keep an eye on them because they will go past what they can physically do.”

The remaining firefighters were ordered to take a break. The sun and humidity level make the already difficult work even more dangerous. To illustrate how dangerous things are right now – one firefighter fought the fire for 15-minutes, his blood pressure shot up to stroke level.

Departments are relying more and more on mutual aid with the summer heat here. Five other fire departments sent volunteers to help control the fire.

“We have people keeping times on these guys. I think we’re allowing them to stay in 15-minutes and then we pull them out and send somebody else in,” Gasque said.

As firefighters walked away from the fire they were immediately escorted into an awaiting ambulance to be checked and told if they can go back in or not. Several working the fire were told they had to sit it out over health concerns.

The firefighter who was taken to the hospital is still recovering from heat exhaustion.

Fire investigators are taking a close look at the house fire. Firefighters say the home was fully involved when they arrived. No one was at the home at the time of the blaze. The State Fire Marshals Office and the Colbert County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.