CT firefighters explain challenges when fighting fire in bitter - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT firefighters explain challenges when fighting fire in bitter cold

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A frozen jacket demonstrates the issues faced by firefighters in the bitter cold. (WFSB) A frozen jacket demonstrates the issues faced by firefighters in the bitter cold. (WFSB)

Firefighters explained the biggest challenges they faced fighting overnight fires in sub-zero weather. 

The first call coming into Hartford’s Fire Department at 4:24 a.m. A machine caught fire at a recycling plant on Maxim Road.

The fire was controlled quickly, Arctic air, not so much. Crews wore full face masks even when resting. A heated bus was brought in to provide some quick relief.

There were no injuries and the fire was out by 5:30 a.m.   

Around 5:30 a.m. Simsbury volunteer firefighters are called out to a house fire on Hopmeadow Road.

“We got here we had fire showing form the roof line of the building,” Simsbury Fire Chief Jim Baldis said.

One man lived at the home and he escaped. The fire was extinguished within 20 minutes. However, once again, the cold took hold and caused problems.

“But once the fire is put out everything then starts to freeze up very, very quickly,” Baldis said.

Water from the hydrant coated Hopmeadow Road, which made the conditions more dangerous.

Firefighters put down Speedy Dry to help alleviate the issue. But, there was so much ice, it was really hard to escape.

Even their suits became hard to use. Firefighters in Simsbury explained the issues that they faced on Monday morning.

“My gloves are not pliable at all,” Simsbury firefighter Ken Boudreau said. “The front of my gear, it doesn't move all that well.”

Simsbury’s firefighters would work for about 20 minutes at a time and then warm up. They continued rotating crews until the cleanup was done.

Route 10 was closed in the area of Old Meadow Plain Road and Lincoln Lane, according to dispatchers. However, it reopened around 9:30 a.m.

The cause of the both fires remain under investigation.  

The American Red Cross reminded Connecticut residents " to be prepared and minimize fire risks." They released the following tips for cold weather:

  •  Assemble an Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pack a winter-specific supply kit that includes a warm coat, hat, mittens or gloves, and water-resistant boots, along with extra blankets and extra warm clothing for each family member. Sand or non-clumping cat litter is good to have on hand to help make walkways or steps less slippery. Additionally, make sure you have a first aid kit and a supply of essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries in your home in the event of a power outage.
  • Use Technology to Prepare and Stay Safe: Download Red Cross preparedness apps for your smartphone. Our free apps have tips and real-time information to help you prepare, as well as tools to help you keep in touch during and after a major storm. In particular, the First Aid App has a special section devoted to severe winter weather with preparedness tips and information about coping during and after the storm. Get the apps for iPhones or Android phones at www.redcross.org/mobileapps.
  • Heed Storm Warnings: A Winter Storm WARNING means that life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Individuals in a warning area should take precautions immediately. Stay tuned to local media to keep up with forecasts and additional warnings. A Blizzard Warning is issued for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to prevail for a minimum of 3 hours.
  • Use Caution Clearing Snow: Shoveling snow is strenuous work; take the task slow and easy to guard against over-exertion or back injury. Take regular breaks. If using a snow thrower, keep hands and feet clear of moving parts. Always turn off your snow thrower and use a stick or other implement to clear blockages, never use your hands. If there is a fire hydrant on your property, clear snow around the hydrant so it is accessible in the event of a fire.
  • Tips for Home and Car:  Winterize your vehicle and keep the gas tank full, which will help to keep the fuel line from freezing. When the storm has passed, completely clear snow from all surfaces of your vehicle. It’s safer for you and other drivers and it’s the law in Connecticut. Be sure to keep furnace and gas dryer vents outside your home clear of snow to avoid the risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. If you lose power and heat, running water at a trickle from a faucet helps to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Use Generators Safely: Never operate a generator inside homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, sheds or other partially enclosed spaces, even if using a fan or opening doors and windows. Carbon Monoxide (CO) can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours after a generator is shut down. Place your generator outside, well away from windows, doors and vents. Shut down the generator before refueling it. If you begin to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a portable generator, shut it off and get to fresh air immediately. You could have CO poisoning.
  • Use Care When Outdoors in the Cold: Dress in light layers so you can adapt to temperatures. Wear a hat; most of your body heat is lost through your head. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Wear insulated, waterproof footwear. Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms. Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms. 

The American Red Cross also released 10 tips for the bitter cold:

  • Wear layers of lightweight clothing to stay warm. Gloves and a hat will prevent losing body heat.
  • Know the signs of hypothermia - confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. If someone has these symptoms, they should get immediate medical attention.
  • Watch for symptoms of frostbite including numbness, flushed gray, white, blue or yellow skin discoloration, numbness or waxy feeling skin.
  • Bring the pets indoors. If that’s not possible, make sure they have enough shelter to keep them warm and that they can get to unfrozen water.
  • Avoid frozen pipes - run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent them from freezing. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night to help avoid freezing pipes.
  • Do not use a stove or oven to heat the home.
  • Space heaters should sit on a level, hard surface and anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away.
  • If using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
  • Turn off space heaters and make sure fireplace embers are out before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, make sure you have a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle which includes: shovel, blanket, flashlight, water, snacks, first aid kit, and extra batteries. Keep the gas tank full--a full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.

For more tips on winter storm preparedness, click here

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