Cold temps make fighting fires more hazardous

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MANCHESTER, MO (KTVI) – Emergency and fire crews are keeping an eye on the forecast.  For firefighters, the temperature drop makes a difficult job even harder.

Buildings looking more like ice castles and uniforms covered in ice are just some of the ways frigid temperatures impact the life-saving work that firefighters set out to do.

West County Fire Department Deputy Chief Tim Dorsey explains, “The trucks are built to withstand cold temperatures, it’s just when we compound that with water, water spills all over the place and becomes hazardous for us.”

When temperatures dip below freezing, especially in the teens and single digits, FOX 2 Chief Meteorologist Dave Murray says firefighting can be even tougher than in extreme heat: “It’s a matter of minutes before you start to get that ice look on buildings, even in a fire situation.”

Ice-covered buildings can quickly crumble.  Dorsey explains, “In cold temperatures, the water weight would accumulate and possibly cause that collapse or failure in the structure.”

The frigid temperatures are also tough for firefighters themselves, who can be outside anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours.

Murray says, “Think about working on a skating rink, with all their heavy equipment, the oxygen tanks, the whole thing. It’s a very dangerous situation to be in.”

Unfortunately, firefighters could find themselves in these bitter cold situations more often in the near future, especially on Monday, when temperatures are expected to dip below zero.

Despite the danger, firefighters know that it’s worth it to save people’s homes, businesses, and lives.  Dorsey explains, “Whether it’s 10 below zero or 110 degrees outside, these are just the environments and physical situations that firefighters are put into, and it’s just part of the job that we do.”

Other dangers for firefighters, and anyone out in these temperatures, include frostbite and hypothermia.  To prevent these issues, efforts are made to rotate firefighters more often, and provide places for them to warm up.