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Heat challenges fire crews during early evening blaze - Aug. 08, 2014


Vern Faulkner/Courier
Firefighters from the St. Stephen and Calais fire departments prepare to enter a home on Pagan Street that was heavily damaged in a blaze Tuesday evening. The fire, believed an accidental blaze, started in a basement bedroom. In total, 30 firefighters responded, battling humidity and heat, as well as challenging conditions in the interior of the home.

Vern Faulkner
St. Stephen
A total of 30 firefighters responded to a troublesome blaze that erupted in the basement of a home on Pagan Street in St. Stephen shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Crews had to tackle two distinct challenges – entry into the basement, and the high temperature and humidity.
“Heat wants to rise, and it naturally wants to rise through any natural opening such as stairwells, which we have to use to get down to the basement,” explained St. Stephen Fire Chief Jeff Richardson. “It forces the guys to go to that extra (effort).
“We’ve got to make sure that you’ve got all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed with a basement fire.”
The timing of the blaze, occurring with much of the mid-afternoon heat pushing temperatures into the high 20s, combined with humidity, also created challenges as firefighters garbed in heavy, protective gear quickly faced fatigue from overheating.
It’s a particular challenge, said Richardson, to battle fires in such summer temperatures. To compensate, front-line crews are rotated often.
“You try not to use people to their extreme. Once they’re in, they come out, they have to peel down and get the gear off them – the gear keeps the heat out, but it also keeps the heat in.”
Battling such conditions puts a premium on physical endurance, Richardson said.
“It takes a major, major toll on manpower.”
In total, 18 members of the St. Stephen Fire Department and 12 from the Calais Fire Department attended to the blaze.