This summer's sweltering heat has left many desperately trying to stay cool, including the men and women fighting fires throughout the Tennessee Valley. 

Deputy Chief Jack Brellethin of the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department says this summer has been tolerable for his crew compared to last year, but he says he pushes firefighters to come into work already hydrated in order to stand up against the heat and flames on the job. 

"We expect these temperatures and prepare for them. We expect that mid-July to mid-August is the critical time," says Brellethin. 

Brellethin says his crew cannot afford to take any chances during that time frame. He says it's why firefighters are limited to 10 minutes of heat exposure while battling flames. 

"The Hamilton County 911 center helps us monitor that," Brellethin says. "They provide us with lapse time notifications once we start the fire fight, so the incident commander gets an automatic notification every 10 minutes and we'll rotate the crews out." 

Firefighters are required to see a medical examiner at the scene immediately after those 10 minutes are up. Mutual aid or surrounding fire stations are also called in to help relieve crews. 

"Our crews that come out are monitored for vital signs and signs of heat stress and heat stroke and they're not allowed to return to the fire fight without the medical clearance from the paramedics and EMTs on the scene," says Brellethin. 

Rescue trucks are also close by for crews. They're stocked with water, Gatorade, snacks and many other things to help with recovery. 

The process of extinguishing a fire is slowed down because of these extra steps, but Brellethin says his crew's safety is important. Fortunately, Bellenthin says his crew has not experienced any serious medical conditions due to the heat. 

"We do go over in our training the signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion so that team members can watch out for their buddies," Brellenthin says. "If you see somebody getting a little bit woozy or something like that, you get them out." 

Here's a list of heat-related illnesses and tips on what to do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 

Heat-related illness What to look for What to do 
Heat Stroke 
  • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Feeling confused
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)
  • Call 911 right away- heat stroke is a medical emergency
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink
Heat Exhaustion 
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)
  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

Get medical help right away if:

  • You are throwing up
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour
Heat Cramps
  • Heavy sweating during intense exercise
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Stop physical activity and move to a cool place
  • Drink water or a sports drink
  • Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity

Get medical help right away if:

  • Cramps last longer than 1 hour
  • You’re on a low-sodium diet
  • You have heart problems
  • Painful, red, and warm skin
  • Blisters on the skin
  • Stay out of the sun until your sunburn heals
  • Put cool cloths on sunburned areas or take a cool bath
  • Put moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas
  • Do not break blisters
Heat Rash  Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin (usually on the neck, chest, groin, or in elbow creases)
  • Stay in a cool, dry place
  • Keep the rash dry
  • Use powder (like baby powder) to soothe the rash