ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla— The St. Lucie County Fire District responded around 7:57 a.m. Thursday to a fire at a tire recycling facility off Range Line Road. Once on scene, more units were called out due to the proximity and location of a chemical plant.
“This was a high risk operation,” said SLCFD Battalion Chief Mark Cristaldi.
A spokesperson with the fire department said a strong northern wind created concern for the 26 crews that responded.
“The wind was pushing that fire to an adjacent chemical plant so we had to divert a lot of resources to protect that exposure,” said fire chief Nate Spera.
Crews were able to contain the fire before it spread. None of the Liberty Tire employees were hurt before evacuating. However, two firefighters were sent to a nearby hospital for heat-related injuries.
“It is physically and mentally taxing especially in the summer time,” said Cristaldi.
When the heat index is extremely high, like it was Thursday, they send extra crews to help so they can stay hydrated and continually check their vitals.
“Whether we are inside or outside, it’s the same conditions, it’s still hot. We don’t have the ability to dissipate that heat we are putting off,” said Cristaldi.
With the required bunker gear they are adding an extra 40 to 50 pounds to their load. The fire department says the equipment doesn’t breathe well so they heat up extremely fast.
“Even a basic car fire putting your gear on It feels like an oven,” said Cristaldi.
That’s why supervisors ask their crews to stay hydrated, especially before they even start their shift. They also stress limiting their caffeine intake and warn against taking any stimulants to prevent anyone from collapsing.
“It takes it’s toll and this fire started early. We have crews rehab, but they still have to work the rest of the shift. They might respond to another structure fire, car fire or a high intensity rescue situation,” said Cristaldi.
A spokesperson with the St. Lucie County Fire District said due to privacy laws, they are unable to provide an update on the condition of the firefighters taken to the hospital.
Several units are working a large industrial fire at the tire recycling plant on Range Line Road. When crews arrived the initial course of action was to protect the chemical plant on the north. At this time the focus is on putting out the smoldering material. pic.twitter.com/Juhf7dlhUL— StLucieFire (@StLucieFireDist) June 20, 2019