As Boston firefighters yesterday fought yet another four-alarm fire, it was hard to tell if they were drenched from the hoses or their own sweat.

“The heat definitely takes a toll,” department spokesman Steve MacDonald said of the recent weather. “In the old days no one ever gave a thought; it was just suck it up and do it. As we’ve progressed in the fire service, we’ve learned about the job and we know that rehab and hydration are important.”

When a confirmed fire is reported, like yesterday’s four-alarm blaze that caused $500,000 of damage to a Jamaica Plain rooming house, the department’s rehab truck responds with its air conditioning on and coolers full of ice, water and Gatorade.


The firefighters staffing the rehab truck, along with Boston EMS and volunteer organizations like the Boston Sparks Association and Salvation Army, set up tents, misting fans and chairs for firefighters to catch their breath and cool down under a shower hose. Incident commanders try to rotate firefighters in and out of burning buildings in 15-minute shifts to give them time to rest while fighting the flames.

But getting the firefighters to take off their 60 pounds of gear and hydrate is not always the easiest job in the middle of a blaze.

“One hard part of my job is getting them to come out because they wanted to keep fighting,” said Deputy Chief Joseph Fleming, outside the still-smoldering Jamaica Plain house.

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