Extreme cold makes firefighters job even tougher

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Life gets a little more uncomfortable for all of us during this cold weather, but it gets especially difficult for our area firefighters.

Battling a blaze is no easy task no matter what the weather, and when you throw in extremely hot temperatures or the bitter cold, it becomes even more dangerous.

“The heat just wears on you so much faster,” said Captain David Carter of the Springfield Fire Department. “But if we have a fire in the cold weather that’s when you have to start watching out for hypothermia. Wet clothing is bad when it’s so cold outside.”

And obviously, it’s hard to do this job without getting wet, whether it’s from the hose, the weather conditions, or sweating.

Firefighters wear the same suits in summer and winter, and that protection is certainly better suited for cold weather.

“So you’ve got the heat protection,” Carter explained as he folded back each layer of the firefighters suit. “It’s not heat-proof but it’s gonna give you a layer of protection. And then it’s got a liner inside that that’s generally water-proof. And then another insulating layer.”

The firefighters don’t just have to worry about their own health in the extreme cold. Precautions also must be taken with the equipment.

“This is a fire pump,” Carter said, pointing to a huge nozzle sticking out from the side of the fire truck. “It has water in it at all times so we don’t have to prime it every time we use it. But when it gets cold we have to drain the water out of the pump so the pump will sit empty. Because of it freezes it’s gonna cause damage. The other thing we have to keep in mind on-scene is if we charge the hose lines. They can’t sit idle or water will freeze up inside of them as well. So it’s challenging when it gets as cold as it is now.”

So what are firefighters more worried about in the extreme cold. The human element or the equipment?

“For the most part we can work through the manpower problem by rotating crews or being prepared for this type of weather,” Carter said. “Equipment failure is the major concern. Even our SCBA’s that we breathe through (can be a problem). I’ve been on fires where it’s been so cold that the regulator freezes up and it won’t work. So you have to keep all those working parts working or they do freeze up and that causes problems.”

Despite all the concerns though, it’s just another challenge in serving and protecting the rest of us.

“Regardless of all the situations it’s still the best job in the world,” Carter said. “Where else can you drop everything you’re doing to go help somebody?”

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