Firefighter's Perspective: What It's Like To Fight A Massive Fire (VIDEO)

By Rachel Martin - 21Alive

August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 6:23 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – Dealing with intensely hot temperatures is something we can only imagine. 21Alive’s Rachel Martin spoke with a firefighter on what it’s like to fight such a massive fire.

"It feels like sticking yourself in an oven. When you open the oven and take out your pan of cookies and you feel that rush of heat on your face, that's what it feels like all the time,” said Battalion Chief Ron Meikle with the Fort Wayne Fire Department.

Meikle says between the coat, pants, helmet, boots and air packs, firefighters are carrying 40-50 lbs. of gear. If they're using tools and equipment, that could add an extra 20 lbs.

With the case in Monday’s warehouse fire, imagine all of that while being a hundred feet in the air spraying water while being consumed by smoke. At one point the firefighters on the ladder were completely obscured by smoke. At that point Meikle says you rely on your training and your senses.

"All of that heat and smoke rises, so you're in the midst of it. You've got your gear on, so you're protected, but at the same time you feel all of your senses. Your vision, your taste, your hearing, touch—it's all there, and it all can be overwhelming,” Meikle said.

The firefighters had to be put on rotation to battle the blaze, and there was a rehab center available with water and a place for them to reenergize.

In fact, Meikle says he allows crews to only work four hour stints, because after fighting the massive fire, crews had to return to duty at their stations overnight. Meikle says more than 100 firefighters were rotating throughout the day and night.

It took many long hours to contain the fire, and many of the firefighters were working on an empty stomach. Meikle says several local restaurants donated more than 100 meals for all the crews involved in fighting the fire.

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