Firefighters react to heat death toll

Middleton benefit provides brief respite from extreme temps
Firefighters react to heat death toll

As hot temperatures continue in and around Madison, news of heat-related deaths creep closer to home for those in the capital city.

The first heat-related fatality in Dane County has been confirmed, and first responders in the area hope people aren’t forgetting to take precautions.

Saturday afternoon at Capital Brewery, the tap flowed in honor of the Middleton Fire District. It was time for the crew’s annual benefit, one the department counts on to continue a number of community outreach and education programs.

“Other districts have been hit a little bit harder, but it’s just keeping them aware,” benefit organizer and Middleton Fire District Chief John Maasch said.

A cool breeze and some cold beer provided a brief relief from the extreme summer heat people have been enduring over the past couple of weeks.

Lori Wood, who brought her family out to the benefit, said it’s taken a lot of days inside to keep her daughters cool.

“I think we’re so used to the 99 and the 97 and the 100 degrees,” Wood said.

Maasch added of Saturday’s milder temps, “The weather obviously cooperated with us very much so.”

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The celebratory mood full came on the heels of some bad news having to do with some deadly climates.

The Dane County medical examiner reported the death of a 73-year-old Madison man has been linked to the heat. While the man did not live alone, the apartment had no air conditioning. He was found dead in his home on July 5.

The passing marked the first heat-related death on record for Dane County this year, bringing the number of statewide confirmed heat-related fatalities to 10.

There are another 12 deaths across Wisconsin that are possibly connected to the hot weather, according to the Wisconsin Department Of Health Services.

Madison’s Station 8 didn’t respond to that fatal call, but Chief David Schechter said a number of their summer emergencies can be blamed on the high temperatures.

“We try to educate when we can and try to prevent them from having to take those trips to the hospital, to the emergency room,” Schechter said.

In many cases, first responders were called out by people checking in on others who may be more vulnerable, like children and the elderly.

“If you know somebody, keep an eye out for them,” Schechter encouraged. “Keep an eye on your neighbors.”

It’s not just those populations who can fall victim to the heat. Middleton Chief Aaron Harris said a few of his men went down fighting a house fire thanks to the heat from the fire and the sun, so it’s important to keep crews hydrated and well-rested on the job. He added that rehabilitation technicians are constantly on-scene with fluids and help if they are needed.

“We’re going into super-heated conditions as it is,” Harris mentioned. “It’s the recovery time afterwards that we’re really concerned about.”

The Middleton Fire District hopes the money raised at this year’s benefit will go full circle to help and protect their community even more than they already are.

“They’re supporting us, and then we’re supporting and then we get to support them right back,” Maasch concluded.

Middleton Fire expected about 2,000 people to attend their fundraiser. Officials said they’ve raised about $5,000 each year through the event.

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