Firefighter Treated For Heat Exhaustion After Oologah Grass Fire

Thursday, July 19th 2012, 6:38 pm
By: News On 6

Firefighters from several departments grabbed their orders and their water in between breaks of fighting a massive grass fire just south of Oologah.

They aren't sure how it started, only that it started in a ditch on the side of the road.

"We have some houses that we've been protecting, a tank, gas fuel system down here that we've been protecting, also. Just keeping the fire off that," said David Puckett, the Northwest Rogers County Fire Chief.

Hay bales were the only casualties on this property, just one of several properties the 1,700-acre fire marched across.

That's bad news for ranchers, who were counting on those bales for food for their livestock.

One of the biggest obstacles to stopping the flames was the wind ahead of the storm front.

"Open range, open pasture land, three-foot fuel grass out in the fields. Just moving very fast and trying to get it shut down," Puckett said.

Hot and weary firefighters took turns battling the blaze and sitting through mandatory rehab to rehydrate.

"All that extra clothing to protect them actually puts them in danger of overheating, and of course when it's 104 degrees out, anyone, even when we're lightly dressed, is at risk," said Kelly Deal of Oologah-Talala EMS.

In less than an hour, a firefighter can easily overheat, so they'll get pulled off the fire lines if they don't voluntarily take a break.

"I describe them as rodeo riders: they don't like to quit," Deal said. "They're here because they are concerned about the safety of their citizens."

At least five firefighters had to receive fluids through IVs.

"You're probably hitting close to 175 if not hotter than that, when you're on some of these fires with these flames. Short grass is not as hot, but when we start hitting the heavy fuel, it gets hotter," Puckett said.

The fire is now out.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion, but has since been released.

Four others were treated at the scene for heat exposure.