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Burned out

In as little as 24 hours after a moderate afternoon rainstorm, water demand drops. The system could cut back as much as 5 million gallons per day in that time frame.

Water crews tend to miles of water lines strewn throughout the town and are warned of the dangers of working in high temp-eratures. Despite extreme heat or high water, Latham water crews typically spend five days a week in the field, said Frazer.

It's constant work to keep the water pumping, especially on hot days, and who knows who will need it. The same system that fills the town's pool and pumps water to dehydrated residents is the same that courses through the miles of hose carried by anyone of the town's 12 fire departments. Although the water is there to put out fires, the heat still manages to prey on town volunteers.

"Firefighting gear, when we put it on out in the sun, adds 25 degrees to the heat index. On a day like today (Wednesday, Aug. 2) with a heat index of 107, you are at 132 degrees before you hit the fire," said Jerry Paris, a deputy fire coordinator for the town of Colonie.

When temperatures reach as high as they did last week, standing orders go out to volunteer firefighters to stay hydrated throughout the day. However, despite their best efforts, the heat sometimes wins in the end.

Two weeks ago, crews battled a blaze in West Albany for more than two hours. By the time the flames were squelched, two volunteers had to be treated for exhaustion; one was sent to the hospital.

Extreme temperatures put a stress on the entire staff of town firefighters. Responding to fires requires more crews, which rotate on orders from their chiefs. They battle the blaze in shifts of no more than 25 minutes. Then it's off to air-conditioned trucks, commissioned buses or neighboring homeowners willing to take them in.

Firefighters can succumb to the same ailments so many elderly do in extreme temperatures, including heat stroke.

Last week's heat also closed the Saratoga Race Course, and it forced Colonie town officials to cancel an outdoor concert. In an effort to provide relief from the soaring temperatures, the town's pool remained opened until 8:30 p.m.""

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