Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TOP STORY >> Hot weather could cause fires, illness

By SARA GREENE
Leader staff writer

Lack of precipitation and high temperatures are poised to make this summer miserable for people and pets alike. Tinderbox conditions caused many county judges to issue burn bans throughout the central part of the state, including Lonoke, Pulaski and White counties. Other counties with burn bans include Cleburne, Saline, Garland, Hot Spring, Clark, Pike Polk, Howard, Hempstead, Nevada, Miller, Lafayette, Columbia, Ashley and Chicot.

“In years past, if it was very dry before the Fourth of July, fireworks cause a lot of fires, but we’ve been fortunate with that this year,” Beebe Fire Chief William Nick told The Leader.

“We’ve had a few grass fires, nothing above normal, but I think that will change if it stays dry,” Nick said.
In White County, Searcy Fire Marshall Phil Watkins said there’s little outdoor burning within the city limits. Most of the grass fires in the area are near highways.

“Human carelessness is the cause of most of it. People throwing cigarette butts out their car windows by the interstate,” Watkins said.

Jacksonville and Cabot fire departments haven’t had any fires within the city limits recently, but Cabot fire crews have gone into the county to help volunteer fire departments battle fires.

“South Bend fought a hay fire yesterday and the week before last there were two grass fires in one day,” said Chief Phil Robinson of Cabot.

“Most of the grass fires we see are people who are burning and let it get away from them,” Robinson said.
On Tuesday, the Cabot Fire Department reviewed treatments for heat related illnesses after the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services reported the first heat-related death of the year.

The elderly, people with health problems, and very young children are the most vulnerable to heat related illnesses. People should avoid staying shut-up indoors during a heat wave without using air conditioning.

To stay healthy in the heat, health officials recommend drinking moderate amounts of water or sports drinks throughout the day and avoiding caffeinated and carbonated drinks because they increase elimination while delaying hydration.
Those who work, exercise or participate in strenuous activity, such as football practice, for an hour or more during intense heat may eliminate or sweat up to two quarts of water.

Heat-related illnesses, causes and treatment include:
• Heat cramps. Muscle pain caused by severe salt depletion due to heavy sweating can be treated through salt replacement, cooling down and gentle massage.

• Heat exhaustion. The most common illness caused by heat. Often occurs while the person is working outside or attending outside events in extremely hot, humid weather.

Victim may complain of weakness and feel faint. Other symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headache and confusion.
The person should be moved to a cooler place, and wet cloths applied for cooling down. Fluid and salt should be replaced.
Depending on the severity of the illness, hospitalization and intravenous fluid replacement may be necessary. This condition usually comes just before heat stroke.

• Heat stroke or sunstroke. This is a life-threatening condition in which the victim’s temperature-control system stops working. Sweating stops completely and the body’s temperature can rise so high the nervous system, the brain and other organs can be damaged permanently.

Death may occur if the body is not cooled quickly. The symptoms of heat stroke include sudden high fever, dry skin, delirium, convulsions and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 and cool the person as fast as possible with ice, a cold bath and wet sheets until medical help arrives. 

• Make sure pets have shade and access to clean water.

The National Weather Service predicts highs over 100 degrees for central Arkansas with a front moving through Friday, dropping the temperature to 97 degree. July’s looming heat isn’t just a Southern phenomenon.
Forecasters are predicting weekend temperatures in the 90s for Cut Bank, Mont.