3 fire recruits hospitalized for heat-related illnesses - FOX 13 News

3 fire recruits hospitalized for heat-related illnesses

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ATLANTA -

Two Atlanta Fire Department recruits are recovering at a hospital after suffering a heat stroke during training on Monday. Those recruits and one other were rushed to the hospital for heat-related illnesses following intense search and rescue training at the fire academy.

The recruits were wearing full turnout gear, which includes three layers of coats and pants, plus leather boots and a breathing apparatus. The firefighter candidates have to simulate a real life rescue, which requires running up and down the ladder in what a fire captain says is 70 pounds of gear.

"They were working their way through the obstacle course when…three of them experienced heat-related illnesses and one actually experienced heat stroke," said Chief Kelvin Cochran of the Atlanta Fire Department.

Department policy requires a supervisor to monitor the class and watch for any signs of trouble.

"But there was not a point where any of the three that experienced heat-related emergencies indicated that they were having these conditions," said Cochran.

Even more puzzling -- the chief says Monday's temperatures were mild compared to some of the record heat we've experienced this summer. The FOX 5 Storm team says the temperature only reached 84 degrees with 65 percent humidity.

"Yesterday was a cooler day than most days when we experience it, so we are at a loss as to what actually contributed to that and the doctors are really checking that out now," Cochran said.

Retired Battalion Chief Michael Williams says a lot has changed since he joined the Atlanta Fire Department in 1969. Back then, firefighters received two weeks of training before hitting the streets. The gear, equipment and tools have improved over the years.

Williams says one thing he found that never changed in his 41 years was the department's commitment to the safety of its fire personnel.

"The fire service does everything humanly possible to insure the safety of the personnel. Nobody wants anybody to get hurt or go down from heat-related issues," said Williams.

One of the three recruits has been released from the hospital. A 27-year-old recruit was upgraded from critical to serious condition.

"He is getting better by the moment and they anticipate that they will be taking him off of the ventilator and off of the sedation medications later [Tuesday]," said Cochran.

Concerned colleagues dropped by Atlanta Medical Center to check in on the recruits.

"He was in excellent physical condition, he was one of the leaders in this class," said Cochran.

The intense apparatus training has been suspended for at least the next three days as the investigation continues, Cochran said.

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