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Firefighters are warned to lay off energy drinks [Updated]

September 3, 2009 |  4:04 pm


On the cover of the daily "Incident Action Plan" for the Station fire is an unusual warning: "No energy drinks."

Even though firefighters expend a tremendous amount of energy, officials said high levels of caffeine in many energy drinks can be dangerous.

"It's been a concern," said Nathan Judy of the U.S. Forest Service. "When they drink those things, it dehydrates them."

Me4_kpdc4knc Judy said that during a previous fire some years back, a firefighter consumed four cans of Red Bull in one day and went into diabetic shock. Since then, fire officials have warned crews to re-energize in other ways, he said.

"Drink water, drink water, drink water," Judy said. He also said that the meals served to firefighters each day are high in calories because firefighters are "going through calories like crazy on the line."

Breakfast this morning at the Hansen Dam fire camp included scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage, hash browns and grits. Judy said lunches are hearty, sometimes consisting of two sandwiches, and that dinners often include lots of pasta, chicken and other meat.

Instead of energy drinks, officials ask firefighters to think about replacing salt, sugar, water and calories as a way to gain a boost. Posters bearing an outline of a slim, energy drink can with a big red strike through it are scattered around the camp.

Mark Whaling of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said firefighters do other things in preparation for work on wildfires as well. They include keeping their socks dry and sanding, oiling and reshaping the wooden ends of their hand tools so they are comfortable for long stretches of labor.

[Updated at 6:22 p.m.: Paul Yoffee, a spokesman for Red Bull, said there are no medical findings that connect someone drinking four cans of Red Bull and going into diabetic shock.

"There are no dangers or drawbacks associated with the consumption of Red Bull, and we are confident in the safety of our product.... We absolutely agree that people need to hydrate themselves, as Red Bull is a functional drink and not a thirst-quencher. Thus, individuals should make sure that they drink lots of water when engaging in physical activity and drinking Red Bull."]

—Ari B. Bloomekatz at Hansen Dam

Photos: Firefighter Ryan Doyle of the Mill Creek Hot Shot crew, top, breaks for a drink of Gatorade after cutting a fire line at the end of Oak Crest Drive in Sierra Madre. At right, another crew member clutches a water bottle while taking a rest.

Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times