Extreme cold impacts Iowa firefighters

DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO/NBC) – In historically cold weather, there are no days off for firefighters and perhaps no job is made tougher by subzero temperatures.

Des Moines, Iowa firefighters did everything they could to stay warm while battling a house fire on 36th Street during the lowest temperatures the state has seen in years.

Des Moines Fire Department Lt. Chris Clement said, “Those air packs that they were wearing were literally frozen to them last night. It was 20 below zero so they had to go into the bus to warm up or into the back of one of our ambulances to actually get their air packs off.”

The extreme cold is tough on the firefighters, their trucks and equipment which made the fire even harder to put out.

Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell said “If a hose line is just laying on the ground you may see where we just crack that hose line open just a bit to keep water circulating. While that water is keeping the hose and truck from freezing up, that water is now freezing on the ground.”

To make the ground easier to walk on they carry sand and salt on their trucks and usually have to call public works to bring in more.

Whitsell said, “We have safety officers that will function at a scene that will look for those things that maybe not every firefighter is looking for at that particular time.”

Now that the fire is out, fire investigators have to wait until all of that ice melts before they can find out what exactly caused the fire.”

Lt. Clement explained, “Not only does it make it treacherous to move around but also things being coated with ice it makes structural supports heavier so now you’re worried about the roof collapsing and the walls coming in not only because they’ve been breached by fire but also because they have that ice load hanging on them and it makes the investigation more dangerous.”

No one was injured in the fire. The homeowners have been temporarily relocated.

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