NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The drought and extreme North Texas heat have caused a water crisis for the local American Red Cross.
Now the agency is the one asking for assistance from the public to help replenish their water supply for firefighters and police.
In addition to helping families after disasters, the Red Cross is also there to make sure firefighters and police officers working outdoors have water and Gatorade to keep them hydrated. “If you are fighting a fire or directing traffic around a fire, in these temperatures, keeping those guys hydrated is one of our number one priorities,” explained American Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster.
Foster says public servants have specific needs in the heat. “What we’re asking folks to do is to help us with those financial donations so that we can buy the water in the size containers that fit on our relief trucks and we can buy in bulk and actually help your dollar go farther.”
Jason Evans, with Dallas Fire Rescue, says hydration is critical when battling a blaze in the heat. “We try to encourage our citizens to wear light-weight, light-colored, loose fit clothing of course,” Evans said of the normal heat stress reduction recommendations. “[But] as firefighters we don’t have that option whenever we’re out in the heat fighting fire.”
The triple-digit heat is dangerous for average citizens and even more so for those responding to a heat or fire emergency.
“Our firefighting gear weighs an extra 70 pounds – it’s well insulated. So as well as keeping heat from contacting us, it also keeps our body heat inside which increases the temperature of that gear 50, 60, even 100 degrees,” explained Evans.
In just a few weeks the Red Cross has gone through an entire summer’s worth of bottled water and Gatorade.
“Our warehouse is bare. We’re down to about one pallet of bottled water and not much more Gatorade,” Red Cross interim regional chief executive officer Leslie Palmer said in a press release. “That’s not going to last long so we’re in great need of financial donations to make sure the many firefighters working out in this heat stay hydrated.”
The hydration supplies are critical for rescuers who are out in, or expecting to be out in, the heat. “We try to encourage our firefighters to hydrate throughout the day, whether or not we’re responding to an incident or not, just in case we have to go to a multiple-alarm fire,” said Evans.
Compared to last year, this summer’s extreme heat and dry conditions have led to a 46-percent increase in disaster responses.
“When the elements are dry, like they are now, it just does not take contact with fire for an extended period of time for something to actually light up and pose more of a danger for our firefighters,” said Evans.
Red Cross officials say some $21,000 needs to be raised to purchase supplies to finish out the summer.
Anyone wanting to help the Red Cross restock their hydration supplies can click here to make a donation or call (214) 678-4800 to make a gift over the phone.