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Fighting Fire in Freezing Weather

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  • Fighting Fire in Freezing Weather

    Winters aren't to extreme where I'm from. I was curious about the North...

    -What kind of firefighting problems are there with 0-20 degree F temps and how do you solve them?

    -Do you stick hand warmers in your fire gloves before you jump out of the truck to fight a house fire (or for a long duration operation)?

    -What do you do when you respond to an injury vehicle accident? Those latex gloves don't provide much warmth and numb hands don't operate well.

    Any type of hand warming device I'm not aware of? Or do you just deal with it?

    Just curious because I may be moving North and I hate the thought of freezing my fingers off every time there is a run.

  • #2
    It's been my experience that here in Northeast Ohio, that you kind of just deal with it......you'll get used to it


    • #3
      We try to carry extra clothes and dry gloves with us, but besides that, we just try to ge through it until the call is over.


      • #4
        Doing EMS with the ambulance service I can tell you that. wearing latex gloves in the winter isnt so pleasant...cause its COLD But firefighting.... ehh its not so bad... except when you get real wet which hasnt happened to me.. but this is my first REAL winter being a Cadet.. last year I just watched from the sidelines.. but anyways... You'll get used to it... and learn to adapt just like everyone learns to adapt to the heat..
        New Jersey


        • #5
          Rule #1, If you carry your gear, keep it in the house where it will stay warm. Cold steel toes bite. Rule #2, Carry a stocking cap and "real" gloves. Wear fire gloves when needed but put on warm ones when they aren't needed. Rule #3, Dress warm, it's going to be a long night. Rule #4, protect your hands as much as possible, once you get a cold injury you will be prone to cold injury for the rest of your life. Rule #5, As said above, carry extra gear (i.e. gloves), dry gear makes a difference.
          Train like you want to fight.


          • #6
            You have to do what Clint Eastwood said as Gunnery Sergeant Highway in the film "Heartbreak Ridge"...

            overcome, adapt and survive!

            [ 12-01-2001: Message edited by: Captain Gonzo ]

            ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
            Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


            • #7
              Extra pair of socks helps! I keep a spare pair at the station with my gear for this time of year. I throw them over my pair i have on when i get up there. Just keep moving and sit in the cab of the truck to warm up. Make sure the heat is going full force before you get out. Of course, with the weather at 71 in Philly at the end of November, I don't know if it will get cold.


              ***My Views only***


              • #8
                Up here in the frozen white north of Canada (right now it is -20C or about -5F) we rig out our trucks with arctic packages for keeping the pumps from freezing up but they do anyway For midship pumps its not to bad but for a front mounts you have to be very diligent in draining the pumps down after every call. As for keeping your hands warm on EMS calls I like to keep a $1.29 pair of Wallmart specials in my gear to put over top the barrier free gloves then throw them away after the call. We all wear what we call Bama boots inside our bunker boots when it gets down there, as for keeping your hands warm you make sure you have extra gloves that are dry, nothing worse than putting on wet gloves when its freezing out. And when it gets real cold out you just suck it up and do the best you can .


                • #9
                  We adapt and survive here in the Berkhsire Mountains of Massachusetts (even though it is 65 degrees at 1:20 in the morning on Dec 1st..lol)
                  as for MVA's I recently purchased a pair of extrication gloves, these seem like they'll be a lot warmer than just latex. as for our trucks, we have pump compt heaters and we also recirculate the water when not pumping. Works verry well...even while fighting a fire during a 3 foot blizzard. I personally haven't had any problems with my hands getting too cold wearing fire gloves, so I don't personally use hand warmers. I do agree with keeping gear inside during those cold months and also keeping a spare pair of socks...I also have a spare pair of jeans too that I carry..just in case I get soaked.
                  HELL YEAH!!!
                  The comments made by me are just that. Not of the Fire dept or Ambulance squad I am on.


                  • #10

                    You don't say where you're from nor how far north you may move to.

                    As the others have said, you just learn to overcome and adapt to the weather and carry spare clothes and gloves with you. It's alot easier to add more clothes in a colder environment than to shed the clothes in a hot climate.

                    In my career (all in Alaska), I've seen those who have the pocket hand warmers and those who tough it out. I have seen leather mittens with wool liners used and I have seen regular firefighting gloves used successfully.

                    One thing that is very important is not allowing the water in the hoselays freeze. We find a snow bank and allow the nozzle bail to remain open and flow minimal amount of water to keep the hose from freezing. If the hose will no longer be needed, we drain and roll it immediately.

                    You know how you use the buddy system for checking each other for exposed skin prior to entering a burning structure ? Same goes for exterior operations in checking for exposed skin that could lead to frostbite. Even covered skin can become frostbit if not checked regularly.

                    For medic assists in the elements, we will wear our leather firefighting gloves over our latex gloves until it is time to examine the patient.

                    Some departments in remote areas have been known to build a "tent" over a vehicle requiring extrication and run a heater under the tent to help keep the patient warm.

                    Any way you look at it, the weather (hot or cold) is just another area for us to be creative in solving the problem at hand.
                    BE SAFE
                    Before Everything, Stop And First Evaluate


                    • #11
                      I prefer winter firefighting to summer firefighting. The bunker gear keeps you warm enough this time of year. The fire's usually pretty hot too.


                      • #12
                        I wouldnt recomend putting those chemical warmers in you gloves. Just keep a spare set of gloves, I have a wool pair for after fires. As long as you change out to dry gloves you will be fine.

                        On medical calls, you are cold, not much you can do there, except use your head and take a break when needed.


                        • #13
                          In parts of Wisconsin, winter fires can be brutal. Spare gloves and spare socks with you, and maybe a change of clothes at the station. On one particularily cold night (about 15 below) we were at a house fire that was a total loss. The driveway was snowed in and was uphill from the fire to the trucks (about 100 yards). This made getting to rehab and warmth difficult. Gloves and gear were freezing in position around tools/hoses. As the house was a total loss (saved the basement) we had one corner that was allowed to burn-about the size of a small campfire. This area we used to keep warm instead of trying to walk up the hill. Some firefighters would even plunge their gloves in the coals for a few seconds to thaw them out again. We did keep the fire from spreading to adjacent structures and there were no injuries. Also, keep water flowing. As soon as flow stops, something is going to freeze up. Chimney fires are no real treat either in the snow/cold. While there are more elements to deal with in the winter, cold weather is less taxing on the body than fighting fires or doing extrications in the heat/humidity of summer.


                          • #14
                            During my time as a volunteer in Newfoundland I picked up a few tricks for emergency response in the winter. The biggest problem we usually had was getting to the hall during bad storms. Most of our MVA responses occur during the worst winter driving conditions so our response time was a little slower but besides tire chains for our response vehicles, extra gloves and nomex hoods our gear is the same. At a winter fire scene I learned the hard way not to check the pattern in front of the structure entrance. The team coming in after ours slipped and fell on the little ice rink I made especially for them!
                            Moving water and staying warm in really cold conditions is problematic but like Captain Gonzo and Jeff Dobson indicated we just have to adapt our procedures and look after each other.



                            • #15
                              Up here in canada, firefighting can get pretty tricky in -40°C (-40°F) weather. It's hapenned before that trucks have been trapped in over three feet of ice after a long call. That's why many bigger departments still use boilers in case of ice build up.

                              Also an other problem can be the hydrants freezing up. Near Quebec city, in a small town the fd was sued because they lacked to keep the hydrants clear during the winter, thus causing the fire to destroy a motel. They had to pay out over $ 5 million in compensation !

                              Enclosed top-mount panels are pretty popular up here too. Oh, and of course tire chains too!

                              A firefighter from the quebec city fire departement once told me that they tried not to train too much and get in a full sweat in the station during the winter because that's the worse, going out in -30° weather in a full sweat !


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