HOUSTON - Officials are investigating after two Houston firefighters have suffered heart attacks in the last week.
On Thursday, a 46-year-old Houston firefighter collapsed at the fire station and went into cardiac arrest. Fellow firefighters were able to bring back his pulse. According to Marty Lancton, President of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, the 46-year-old is now in stable condition at a local hospital intensive care unit.
"Thank you, Houston for all the outpouring of support, prayers, and messages," said Lancton.
Last week, 24-year-old HFD firefighter Malcom Willis died suddenly at his home following a heart attack. Willis served with HFD for 19 months. An autopsy report for the 24-year-old hasn’t been released.
"You can’t look at heat as a factor," said Lancton. "When you’re dealing with record temperatures, and the firefighters having to wear the gear, the best way to put it is it compounds itself."
Throughout the last few weeks, the Houston area has experienced extreme heat. As we’ve reported, last month was the hottest June on record for the city.
In an interview Thursday, FOX 26 asked Houston firefighter and Public Information Officer Martee Black if the heat could have been a factor in the two recent firefighter heart attacks.
"Those are both under investigation," said Black. "To avoid speculation, and to respect the families, we prefer not to speak on that until we confirm that information."
According to data reported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), sudden cardiac events account for roughly 45% of firefighter duty-related deaths every year. In addition, the NIH indicate that heat stress is the number one cause of line-of-duty firefighter fatalities.
Lancton tells FOX 26 that the Houston Fire Department is short-staffed. As a result, he says firefighters are working more hours in the heat than they typically would.
"The more you work, the more calls you’re running, the hotter it is, the more stress it puts on your heart and the worse off it is for firefighters and for their health and safety," said Lancton.
Black says HFD encourages firefighters to stay hydrated. She says the department uses Metro cooling buses for hydration and calls on additional crews for some scenes to allow for breaks.
"We’re definitely doing our best to put our best foot forward and to keep our firefighters safe out there," said Black.
"As a firefighter, by the time you realize you’re having issues when it comes to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, often times it’s too late," said Lancton.