Staying cool in this heat wave can be a life and death matter

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The sweltering heat can take a toll on all of us, but children and the elderly are the most vulnerable. There is a warning from emergency officials to residents.

Firefighters are trying to get the message out, residents need water, water, water, and check on those at risk. It's brutal out here and it doesn't take long once you step outside to feel just how oppressive this heat.

Rain or shine, firefighters answer hundreds of calls every week. For the next few months, the West County EMS and Fire Protection District will be battling blistering summer heat.

They know it's just part of the job.

“It can sneak up on you quickly,” said Firefighter Dan Roderick, West County EMS and Fire Protection District. “Heat cramps and heat exhaustion, also any signs of heat exhaustion need to be addressed. Call 911. Heat stroke is deadly.”

Firefighters know far too well what it's like to be hot. depending on the call, crews can wear up to four layers of protection

“The gear firefighters wear is about 75 pounds, not including the tools we will carry inside. Fighting a fire in this heat is much more dangerous for us,” Roderick said.

They get how dangerous and miserable it is. The West County EMS and Fire Protection District paid a special visit to a St. Louis County camp Thursday to help the kids cool off with a welcome spray down.

During this excessive heat, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger joined the Affton Fire Department going door-to-door to check on the well-being of residents who are potentially vulnerable to heat-related difficulties.

“Clearly, this is dangerous heat. Every year we see fatalities as a direct result of these excessive temperatures,” Stenger said. “It’s vital we all check on vulnerable neighbors and get them the help they need.”

Seniors are among those vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, but young children, outdoor workers, and those with chronic illnesses are also susceptible. Everyone needs to take steps to stay hydrated and cool.

To provide additional assistance for those who need it, two St. Louis County park locations will be open daily as cooling centers. The county has partnered with the Salvation Army to open a 24-hour cooling shelter. For more information on those shelters click here.

“I commend the County Executive for opening these cooling shelters and checking on residents with us,” Affton Fire Chief Nick Fahs said. “With temperatures over 100 degrees, we need to ensure people are safe.”

In addition to cooling centers, Stenger allocated $150,000 in federal grant money this summer to to establish a utility assistance fund.