Warehouse fire is all day affair - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Warehouse fire is all day affair

June 2, 2005

Albany -- As workers evacuated the warehouse, firefighters headed into the flames and smoke. It took dozens of firefighters, several trucks, and thousands of gallons of water to battle the two alarm blaze.

And the heat, smoke, and flames exhausted firefighters. Many of the firefighters have been out here for nine hours. They continue to water down the hot spots inside the building right now and are starting to investigate what started the fire.

Some were overcome with exhaustion Thursday morning, and all are ready for a break.

Their job takes them where no one else would go. "Going in we really can't see anything," said Captain Kelly Harcrow of the Albany Fire Department. "We're just feeling our way through, trying to advance as far as we can."

"The temperature can get up to 1,700º in some places," said Herbert West of the Albany Fire Department.

Adrenaline kicks in fast. "But after twenty or thirty minutes, the adrenaline tends to wear off then the fatigue comes in," Harcrow said.

Fatigue from hauling more than 60 pounds of equipment. "It's like wearing a winter coat during the summer," said Harcrow. "After twenty minutes of this, it feels like you've been in the gym maybe two hours," said West.

The firefighters worked for about twenty minutes before their bodies forced them to take a break. "Get the guys out, get them re-hydrated, get them some water to cool off, try to get their coats off them to get their body temperatures back down," said Harcrow.

With eyes burning and lung filled with smoke, they ripped off their jackets, got a quick drink of water, changed out their air tanks, and were checked by paramedics. "They're good at working with us to make sure we're not getting too hot or our blood pressure isn't too high or low," said Harcrow.

Two firefighters were taken to the hospital. One's blood pressure was dangerously low, the other's exhaustion caused debilitating cramps. But for the rest, it was back into the fire. "It's extremely physically taxing in there..." said Harcrow.

Another shift of firefighters will come in now, they could be out here until Friday making sure the fire doesn't start back up. For the firefighters who went back to the station, there day isn't over. They must clean and restocked the fire trucks to get them back in service.

They do get to rest, but only until that next call comes in. Both firefighters taken to the hospital are fine. They were treated and released.

The Red Cross showed up at the warehouse fire. Workers provided bottled water and food to the exhausted firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The Red Cross relies on donated water and snacks during disaster like this one. "They're really appreciative," said Ken Adams of the American Red Cross. "Several of them, I hear, were stressed out about the heat before we got here. It's hot out here today, and the water is vital to them."

Each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 67,000 disasters.

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