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Fire recruit dies after jog in the heat

July 04, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The heat, which has been uncomfortable the past few days, turned deadly Wednesday morning when it claimed the life of a 24-year-old Frederick County firefighter recruit who died while jogging.

Circumstances surrounding Andrew James Waybright's death will be investigated by a board of inquiry, Emergency Services Director Stanley L. Poole Jr. said.

The temperature was 75 degrees and the heat index a relatively comfortable 80 degrees when Waybright, of Gettysburg, Pa., and 12 other newly hired Frederick County firefighters set out in shorts and T-shirts around 7 a.m. from the training center just south of the city, Poole said.

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An hour later, as they jogged back to the complex after calisthenics, the air temperature was 84 and the heat index 96, Poole said. When the heat index reaches 100 degrees, outdoor exercises are canceled, Poole said.

Waybright became dizzy around 8:10 a.m. just after entering the 20-acre compound, and collapsed after an instructor insisted he stop running, Poole said. No other recruits appeared to be ill, he said.

"There were no complaints from him until the point they got to the end of the run," Poole said at a news conference.

He said instructors tried to revive Waybright with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, then called an ambulance. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Waybright, who stood 6-foot-2-inches and weighed at least 200 pounds, apparently was in good physical shape. He had passed a physical ability test and a firefighter medical exam, including a stress test, before starting training July 1, Poole said.

Predicting a 105-degree heat index Wednesday, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Maryland issued a hot weather advisory for 15 counties including Washington, Allegany and Frederick.

"A temperature of 95 degrees combined with a humidity reading of 50 percent will produce an apparent temperature of 105 degrees," said Georges Benjamin, secretary of DHMH.

Mid-afternoon Wednesday, Greg Keefer's weather Web site showed a high of 96 degrees in Hagerstown combined with high humidity to produce a heat index of 106 degrees.

Those most affected when the heat rises are older adults, young children, those who are overweight or have heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions, health officials say.

In Hagerstown, a woman showed up at the Washington County Hospital emergency room Wednesday afternoon with a body temperature of 105 degrees, a direct result of the heat, said Dr. Tom Gilbert, emergency room director.

"We're getting a few people with symptoms associated with the heat," Gilbert said.

The woman with the high temperature was in her 60s and was experiencing changes in her mental state - a clear sign that she was in need of immediate remedies, Gilbert said.

"Fanning with cool air is good, drinking cool water and putting cool water on the skin is advisable also," Gilbert said. In some cases, cool blankets can be used as well as ice packs applied to the armpits and groin to bring down the body temperature.

Around 3:30 p.m., an ambulance was sent to tend to a 76-year-old man near Hancock who was experiencing heat-related problems while changing two tires, rescue officials said.

His symptoms were those of heat exhaustion and he was transported to Washington County Hospital for treatment, Hancock rescuers said.

Professionals like police officers and firefighters who require protective clothing are especially prone to the heat. That was evident Tuesday during a two-alarm fire on East Franklin Street.

"We actually took the fire to two alarms because of the heat," Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said. The second alarm brought firefighters from Maugansville, Funkstown and Halfway so they could relieve the Hagerstown firefighters when the heat became a problem.

"One of our firefighters was taken from the scene to the hospital with heat exhaustion," Hawbaker said. For safety, firefighters must wear heavy gear, boots and helmets which add to the heat generated by the weather as well as the fire.

Police can suffer heat-related problems when outdoors in heavy uniforms and bulletproof vests, which are standard equipment.

"When it's hot like this, we go over things with the officers about drinking fluids, wearing ball caps and staying in the shade as much as possible," said Sgt. Paul Kifer of the Hagerstown City Police.

Kifer said all city cruisers are air-conditioned but officers are advised to keep their driver's side windows down so the contrast between the cool car and the hot streets isn't so dramatic.

"The bike cops don't go out when it's this hot," Kifer said Wednesday. "We are not going to get a lot of productivity out of them on a day like this."

If an officer starts to perspire a lot or feel dizzy, he is brought into headquarters to sit in a cool place for a while, Kifer said.

Prior to Wednesday morning's incident in Frederick County, there had been four deaths attributed to hyperthermia in Maryland since June 2, according to the state health department.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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