Although as a Firefighter your role will always involve the protection of the public, your duties will change slightly with the seasons. So as we come into the warmer months, let’s investigate the challenges Firefighters face in summertime.
The risk of fires in the summertime increases for a number of reasons, and these are one of the biggest challenges Firefighters face in summertime.
Each FRS within the UK will have ‘greenspace’ areas within their boundaries, and unfortunately, summer visitors are not always sensible when picnicking and camping in these areas.
Most grassland, woodland and crop fires begin due to accidental ignition from sources like a carelessly discarded cigarette, a campfire or BBQ that’s got out of control, or even an abandoned glass bottle left in sunlight. In addition, some are started deliberately.
These types of fire spread rapidly, and can quickly become difficult and dangerous to manage.
Combine this with instances of campers or picnickers drinking alongside their meal and it’s clear to see the link between this and alcohol-related fires. Drink driving is also still a huge issue. Despite the crackdown in recent years on the legal limit, some people are still prepared to take the chance.
The same can be said for outdoor eating in general. Parties and gatherings in private gardens are common callout locations, where a spark from a thoughtlessly placed BBQ has turned into rapidly spreading fire. Disposal and storage of BBQs is also an issue which can lead to disaster if not dealt with properly.
Other Summer Challenges
Water safety becomes a big issue in the summer months. You might not think that this has much to do with Firefighters, but you’d be wrong – the Fire Service often works in collaboration with the coastguard as part of water rescues, particularly when it comes to helping rescue people (or animals) trapped or sinking in unstable ground. This is why many coastal FRSs have a swimming test as part of their recruitment process.
Sunshine itself can also be an issue. We might complain about the bad weather a lot here in the UK, but the sun’s rays are still strong enough to be a hazard. For example, a portable mirror left too close to a window may cause sunlight to be refracted onto a surface long enough for it to go up in flames – how many times have you left things scattered around when you’ve been in a rush in the morning?
In some summertime road traffic collisions the cause has been sunlight temporarily blinding a driver, leading to them straying over the lines, or not noticing a car braking in front of them.
As a Firefighter, it’s critical to keep the temperature in mind when carrying out your day-to-day role in the summer months. Sweating in heavy PPE can lead you to get dehydrated very quickly.
Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume, and this negatively impacts the blood flow to both your body and brain – affecting not only the muscles you rely on to carry out your role, but also your cognitive function, energy and focus.
It’s impossible to predict the shape your shift will take, but what you can do is monitor your fluids, and try to drink regularly in the warmer months – ideally avoiding too many caffeinated drinks and diuretic drinks like tea and coffee. This way, a sudden callout is less likely to have you feeling rapidly dehydrated.