Meriden fire displaces 7 people, hot weather adds extra danger for firefighters

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MERIDEN -- Seven people were displaced after a fire Monday morning. Everyone got out safely and no one was injured.

The fire happened in a six-family apartment house on Britannia Road in Meriden.

Three people were home at the time. Four more lived in the building. The building suffered extensive damage according to officials.

While everyone got out uninjured, the hot, humid weather challenged firefighters.

The cause is under investigation, but a source told FOX 61 it was likely started by a cigarette.

Mutual aid from other towns was called in to help battle the fire because of the heat. Firefighters had to take frequent breaks and drink extra water to prevent dehydration or heat stroke.

"You're looking at probably 20 to 30 degrees hotter with the heavy coat and the pants on and that's just outside in the ambient air,"  said Meriden's Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Dunn.

And, from a staffing standpoint,  the Meriden Fire Department also has to adjust when Mother Nature turns up the heat.

"We did front load the assignment," said Dunn. "We added extra manpower and we increased our rotation times" by rotating firefighters in and out of the building with more frequency to keep them as fresh as possible.

Paramedics monitored firefighters' vital signs, including their blood pressure and pulse to "make sure they're not feeling woozy," said Thomas Anderson, operations manager for Hunter's Ambulance.

 

"We're just keeping signs out for heat stroke and and if they're dizzy, weak," said Thomas Anderson, Operations Manager for Hunter's Ambulance. "Just trying to keep them going."

Their oxygen tanks provide 45 minutes of air. However, when it's hot and humid outside "they usually last, especially in these conditions, 25 minutes to a half an hour," said Dunn.

After wrapping up in a couple of hours, the crews returned to their respective firehouses to get cleaned up, service their equipment, hydrate and wait because there's no rest for the weary.

"With manpower being what it is, if something else comes in, they're going to go to work," said Dunn. "Before the shift, we like to put out a reminder to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate before you come in."

Monday marked day four of a four-day heatwave for most of Connecticut. You can get the latest forecast here.