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Numb fingers, frozen hoses and other challenges firefighters face in extreme cold

Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-02 19:12:38-05

The extreme cold temperatures create a lot of challenges for firefighters and can often mean it takes them longer to get fires under control.

Within the last few days, firefighters at several scenes in southeast Wisconsin have commented on how challenging fire scenes have been in this single digit weather.

Lt. Brian Krueger with Greenfield Fire says they have to keep a close eye on their equipment, including hose lines and ladders. When the connections between the hose lines freeze, he says it makes it nearly impossible to move the hoses.

"The air bottles that we breathe and the face masks that we use during the cold weather those valves get stuck or stay open," he said. "We have to rotate the crews a little more frequently. Just the toll it takes on the firefighters, the physical demands of working in this cold weather."

Firefighters in Campbellsport on New Year's Eve said the cold weather delayed their efforts in extinguishing a fire that destroyed a couple's home.

And Tuesday morning in Brookfield, they needed extra crews in order to keep everyone rotating and warm.

"Fingers get numb so the pump operators that are working the controls and trying to obtain that water, supply they’re not as quick and nimble as they normally can be," Krueger said.

With all of that in mind, he says working smoke detectors are even more critical. Not only to get out safely but to get fire crews there quicker.

"The response is always the same we get the tones we go out immediately, but once we get on scene, those additional challenges start to add up and it can lead to additional on scene time," Krueger said.

Common causes of fires in the winter tend to be people improperly heating their home by using stoves or outdoor equipment or putting space heaters too close to things that can catch fire.