Firefighters always take breaks from battling smoke and flames to prevent getting overheated. But they've been taking even more precautions in the past few days as the heat index hovers near 100 degrees in parts of Minnesota.
The St. Paul Fire Department needed 78 firefighters to control a fire at a hair salon near the State Capitol on Monday.
The three-alarm fire normally would have been a two-alarm needing about 50 people if not for the heat, which forced firefighters to take more breaks, St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said.
The department is even keeping an ambulance on hand in bigger fires to help firefighters go through "rehab" after coming out from a burning building.
"In these warm temperatures we are making that routine," Zaccard said of the ambulance.
Firefighters are given water or Gatorade and sit in the shade. Many also peel off layers of gear to cool off.
No St. Paul firefighters have been injured while fighting fires during this heat wave, but Zaccard said the department is watching staffing levels. During Monday's fire, Minneapolis had to cover a few of St. Paul's fire stations and the Maplewood and South Metro fire departments were on standby.
But heat exhaustion and other injuries are a concern for firefighters during heat waves.
In Duluth, a firefighter is still in the hospital after experiencing chest pains while fighting a fire Saturday Ameripride Linen and Apparel Services.
Assistant Chief Jim Ray said the stressful conditions made worse by the heat and humidity likely caused the episode.
"He's undergoing some tests now, but that's obviously what triggered it," Ray said.
Ray compared the gear firefighters wear to a snowmobile suit. He said leaving the burning building won't cool off a firefighter enough in this kind of weather.
"You have to strip down and actually cool your body off," Ray said. "It's very exhausting."
And hot and humid weather affects more than just the conditions at a fire scene -- it can also make fire alarms go off more often, Ray said.
There had already been one false alarm Tuesday morning in Duluth, and Ray expected the department would be dealing with them throughout the week.
The false alarms happen when a smoke detector gets hot enough to go off.
"They have to be very sensitive," he said. "A lot of people will call in and tell us it's nothing to worry about, but other times we have to go out and have a look."
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 80s to low 90s throughout the week, although rain could cool things off temporarily.
While they can't predict fires, Ray said crews are trying to get other work -- such as testing fire hydrants -- done in the mornings before the real heat comes.
"We're working around the weather as best we can," he said.