AUGUSTA — With daytime highs in the 90s forecast to run through the weekend as a pair of major festivals get under way in central Maine, emergency responders are putting the word out about how to stay cool.

Drink water, lots of it, they say. It’s the best way to avoid dehydration.

Stay inside in air conditioning if possible or with fans circulating the air.

And those who do work or play outside should take precautions against heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Heat-related illnesses, heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be very serious,” said Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette on Friday. “Typically when the temperatures are up, we do see an increase in respiratory-related calls. We are doing everything we can to post up information.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued an alert about unhealthy air setting in along the coast from Kittery to Acadia National Park, citing “elevated ground-level ozone concentrations,” indicating that individuals “with lung or heart issues, the young and the elderly should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion especially during the afternoon and evening hours.”

The Augusta Fire Department is offering some cooling of its own, setting up a misting/cooling station for those attending the Le Club Calumet’s Festival de la Bastille which began Friday at Pete Gagne Memorial Field off Old Belgrade Road.

In Waterville, Fire Chief David LaFountain said all the venues at the big event that started Friday — the Maine International Film Festival — are air-conditioned.

Among his concerns, he said, are nursing homes without air conditioning.

“We try to make sure we get people cooled down the best we can,” LaFountain said. “Most people, if it’s hot at home and the air conditioner isn’t cutting it, they go to a movie or a shopping center.”

LaFountain said he’s grateful for cooling temperatures at night, contrasting that to Ellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, where he spent some time.

“Las Vegas, Nevada, had a heat warning of 114 in the day time, cooling down into the 90s at night. Can you imagine that?” LaFountain said.

And he expressed sympathy for the thousands of people in the Maryland area suffering through a heat wave without electricity to power air conditioners.

If it gets too hot in Waterville, he said, the department will establish cooling shelters.

“It is so, so important that people stay well hydrated,” said Augusta firefighter and paramedic Randy Gordon. “You can eliminate so many problems if people stay hydrated.”

He also said breathing is easier in a room of cool air.

“Use fans to cool yourself, and try to shade windows. It’s all about reducing exertion, staying hydrated and trying to stay as cool as possible,” Gordon said.

Gordon said warning signs of heat-related health problems are thirst, followed by excessive sweating, followed by a cessation of sweating and then a feeling of dizziness or light-headedness.

“When you’re dizzy or nauseous or feeling like you’re going to pass you, you need to call 911,” Gordon said. “That’s a true medical emergency, a heat-related emergency.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

BEATING THE HEAT

* Drink water often; limit alcohol and caffeine

* Slow down and avoid overexertion

* Stay indoors in air conditioning at home or at malls, libraries, etc., at the warmest time of day

* Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat

* Use sun lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) when outside

Source: City of Augusta Fire-Rescue

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