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Frigid temps pose new challenge for firefighters, emergency officials in Milwaukee

Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-07 18:33:49-05

MILWAUKEE — Fighting fires is already hard enough, but when extreme weather is involved it can make it that much more difficult.

"Most of the time nature wins when it's minus degrees," said Dewayne Smoots, Deputy Chief of Operation for the Milwaukee Fire Department.

As the dangerous cold hits Wisconsin, fire departments are not only fighting the blazes they respond to but the frigid weather as well.

"We use water, water doesn't work well with the cold. So that turns to ice and if you don't leave it open it can freeze inside the fire hose. A fire that was somewhat a medium-sized fire could be a large fire quickly if we have to do a lot of digging of the hydrants," said Chief Smoots.

Around 4 AM Saturday, Milwaukee fire crews responded to an apartment fire on North 25th that sent three people to the hospital, injured one firefighter, and left nearly 40 people without a home to shelter them from the freezing temperatures. Volunteers with the American Red Cross were able to get those who were displaced by the fire into hotels for the time being.

"It's imperative to do that as quickly as possible so we can get people out of the elements and somewhere safe," said communications director with the American Red Cross Wisconsin, Justin Kern.

They say this winter season has been a bit of a challenge.

"Since the start of the year and we've helped more than 650 people affected by house fires. That number is quite on the high side for us," said Kern.

Which is why fire officials are now urging residents to take extra precautions around their homes in order to prevent further incidents.

"Making sure that your house stays warm so that your pipes don't freeze, making sure you have that working smoke detector, make sure that your furnace is working, that you changed the filter," said Chief Smoots.

Currently, the fire is still under investigation, and what caused it, is still unknown. As for those who were displaced, the American Red Cross is working on a recovery plan to eventually get them into longer-term housing.

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