In December, I wrote a short post about fighting fires in extremely cold weather. At the time, we’d been experiencing subzero temperatures, but the weather was downright balmy compared to what’s going on in other parts of the country right now.
A New Year’s Day fire tore through a Minneapolis grocery store with apartments above it, destroying the building and killing two people as of the latest update. Efforts to battle the blaze and rescue victims, some of whom jumped from windows, were hampered by temperatures below zero, with wind chills reportedly as low as -24° F.
Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told CNN, “Firefighters in Minneapolis are used to tough weather in the winter. Ice and water don't mix well. Certainly we are concerned about the condition of firefighters and are monitoring that. Frostbite can happen very quickly, so we are rotating in personnel as needed.”
The Associated Press spoke with Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. He said, “While heat-related illnesses are common for firefighters, now you combine that with the rapid onset of frostbite or hypothermia when they come out and they're wet and exposed to bitter cold temperatures.”
In North Attleboro, Massachusetts, firefighters battled a four-alarm fire Thursday night into Friday morning (Jan. 2-3, 2014). Temperatures were reported to be near zero with wind chills below zero. The Sun Chronicle reported that firefighters had to contend with strong winds, frozen hydrants, and ice that covered streets, apparatus, and equipment.
A photo posted to Twitter shows what an aerial ladder truck looked like after this fire: