Omaha Firefighters Battle Flames As Well As Heat

By: Melina Matthes

OMAHA (kptm) - For Omaha firefighters, heading into a burning house on a scorching afternoon can be torture.

A hot day can be miserable for anyone, but add heavy firefighting gear and the heat of a burning home and you have a sky-high risk of heat stroke for hard working firefighters.

An abandoned house caught fire earlier this afternoon on south 23rd street. Firefighters were dressed in full gear in nearly 100-degree temperatures. They say it isn't easy but with the help of the chaplain they can get by. "I'm drenched, I'm completely wet so everybody will be showering."

Fire Captain Mark Driscoll says fighting fires in this heat can be exhausting, "the guys get tired quicker."

But Omaha firefighters have a secret weaponfire chaplain Father Chuck Swanson.

"Firefighters get dehydrated very quickly and so they got to have something to help them. Not only the fire is hot but their gear is very, very difficult," Father Swanson says.

The son of a fireman himself, Father Swanson says he listens to the scanner and when a fire call comes in, he's ready with cases of water and plenty of ice. "It's nice when he shows up brings us the extra water," Captain Driscoll says.

Giving the firefighters just what they need to keep cool under pressure. That's why they've nicknamed him "Waterboy." "I don't know very many people that'll run into a burning building, try to put out the fire, most of them run the other direction and these guys do that," Father Swanson says.

Firefighters say it's hard to get fully dressed to go in and battle the hot flames but they say with the help of the chaplain they get hydrated with water, nearly 5 gallons of it. "It's what we have to do so when we put the gear on we know it's going to be hot but that's the nature of the beast," Captain Driscoll says.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Captain Driscoll did say however when crews arrived they found a mattress on fire in the basement. How it started is unclear at this time.