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Sun baked

George Boardman

You want hot? How about a place where a thermometer will explode at 11 a.m.?

Bryan Frye, owner of Frye Roofing in Penn Valley, says he literally sees that kind of heat on every job he takes at this time of the year in western Nevada County.

“I would guess it gets well over 150 degrees (on the roof),” Frye said. “If you put a thermometer on the roof, it would bust by 11 o’clock.” A standard household thermometer tops out at 120 degrees.

July and August are the hottest months of year in western Nevada County, and they are also two of the busiest months for the building and construction trades.

That means people who work outside have to learn to cope with the heat – an average high of 88.9 in July and 87.9 in August, according to Qwikcast.com. By common agreement, people who work in roofing, concrete and asphalt have the most to cope with.

Frye said he likes to start work this time of the year “just when the sun’s coming up,” about 5:30 a.m., but Lake Wildwood and Grass Valley won’t let crews start work before 7 a.m. Work ends at 1 p.m. on hot days, 2 or 3 when it’s cooler.

Several steps are taken to cool off the roof and keep workers functioning.

“Sometimes we use water to spray down the roof to keep it from getting too hot,” Frye said.

“We also use carpet on the roof. Heat radiates up from the roof and you have the sun beating down on you, so you need something to break that barrier. Carpet can make a big difference.”

Workers are encouraged to use salt tablets and stay hydrated. “We drink at least a gallon of water per man per day,” he said.

Frye has seen workers faint on the job, especially when he was working asphalt in Palm Springs 20 years ago.

“That’s even worse than shingles because it’s 500-degree asphalt. I saw a lot of local guys down there passing out, just keeling over from the heat.”

Tar-and-gravel roofs are the most difficult projects at this time of the year. “I have a big one coming next month. I had a guy quit today; maybe that’s why,” he chuckled.

Michael Irvine has worked just about every job in construction over the past 20 years and figures concrete work is tough enough in hot weather. “The concrete goes off (hardens) a lot faster, so you have to work harder and faster,” he said. “It’s all out nine hours a day, six days a week.”

Irvine is currently recuperating from a broken leg at his south county home but he has plenty of advice for surviving the hot months, much of it gained from his fellow workers.

He believes Mexican workers who typically wear long-sleeve cotton shirts and pants are onto something.

“When you sweat, the sweat stays in the material and gets the clothing wet,” he said. “When a breeze comes by, it cools you right down.”

Other things he’s learned over the years include:

• “Chase the shade. It there’s any shade at all on the job, plan your day to chase it.”

• “Do the hard stuff early. If you know you have to dig a ditch that’s 8 feet long, start on that son of a gun at 7 o’clock in the morning.”

Still, Irvine knows nothing beats working in air-conditioned comfort.

“I know bank tellers and supermarket clerks work hard, but it looks like heaven to me.”


Dehydration is a common heat-related illness that can be life-threatening. It occurs when the body loses water content and essential body salts, such as sodium, potassium, calcium bicarbonate and phosphate.

The common symptoms of dehydration may include:

– Thirst

– Less frequent urination

– Dry skin

– Fatigue

– Light-headedness

– Confusion

– Dry mouth and mucous membranes

– Increased heart rate and beating

There are several precautions people can take to avoid dehydration when spending long periods of time in the sun:

– Drink plenty of liquids.

– Make sure you are taking in more liquid than you’re losing.

– Try to schedule physical outdoor activities for the cooler parts of the day.

– Drink sport drinks to help maintain electrolyte balance.

Source: University of Maryland Medicine

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