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Firefighters take care of themselves and gear during heat waves

While some Santa Barbara firefighters are fighting wildfires around the state, others are strategically placed to protect the city during the high fire danger Red Flag Warning.

Whether they are fighting fires locally or across the state, one thing is the same; they are going to get sweaty and dirty.

Santa Barbara Battalion Chief Chris Mailes said, “You’re on an incident for just a few minutes, and you take off your turn out jacket, and you’re t-shirt is soaked.

Their shirts go into regular washing machines, but their turnout gear goes into an extractor machine.

“When it gets so soiled that we can’t use it or it has poison oak on it, we have specialized washing machines that actually extract the chemicals and products of combustion out of the clothing,” said Mailes

They also spin a lot quicker than a normal washer.

Santa Barbara Fire headquarters has two of them, and firefighters from other stations often visit to do their own laundry.

Crews are also continuously reminded to stay hydrated before, during and after their long shifts.

Mailes said, “There is a term called Voluntary-Hypo-Hydration.”

He said it happens when firefighters think they are drinking enough water and a few days later they experience heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

Firefighters can also experience “bonk.”

“There is a term called bonking; if anyone does exercise they know the term bonk, and they get to a point they know they need to take a break.”

Sometimes Mailes said the new firefighters learn about what happens when they don’t drink enough water the hard way.

He said firefighters need about 90 ounces of water a day or three times as much water as the average office worker. They also need to mix some water with electrolytes like those found in Gatorade.

“It should be upwards of about 75 percent of your fluid intake should be water with less than 25 being an electrolyte replacement,” said Mailes.

People doing laundry and drinking water may want to think about the firefighters carrying 60-80 pounds of gear and water on their backs everyday while saving property and lives.

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