Sweltering heat a challenge for Winnipeg firefighters, construction workers

Outdoor workers don't get a day off during dangerously hot weather.

Fighting fires in +30 C conditions creates huge thermal stress

Capt. Ed Yuen of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service says his crews can wear up to 32 kilograms of equipment, even in scorching summer heat. (CBC News)

With prolonged heat wave underway in the Manitoba, workers who don't have the benefit of air-conditioned offices are feeling the burn under the Prairie sun.

High temperatures for the weekend are expected to reach above 35 C.

Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service crews say these conditions take a toll on the body, meaning crews have to take more breaks during calls like Tuesday's West End blaze.

"When the temperatures are extreme like that, the cycling time can be 10, 15 minutes at full-out max heart rate," said Capt. Ed Yuen of the Osborne Village fire station.

He says the gear designed to protect firefighters can weigh up to 32 kilograms and doesn`t allow for proper ventilation.

"This will definitely protect us from the heat but, again, it's a double-edged sword. It inhibits our body to cool down properly because of its insulating value," Yuen said.

When crews are fighting significant structure fires, a medical team assembles cooling stations on location to allow rotating crews to rehydrate, cool down with ice baths and have their vitals monitored.

Construction workers try to keep cool

Other groups of workers including roofers and road workers spend several hours of the day in direct sunlight.

On Tuesday, a crew was  applying boiling hot tar to cracks along Portage Avenue to prevent pot-holes from forming.

"Its exhausting, its dehydrating and its hard to keep your bodies muscles moving when they're fatigued and dry," one worker said.

​Under Manitoba's workplace regulations, there are fairly explicit guidelines for exposure limits for heat stress in various conditions.

In addition, the regulations indicate that employees must be trained to recognize thermal stress and how to avoid the dangers of heat stroke and dehydration.