Icy temps make fires challenging to fight off

Fighting fires in the extreme cold

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The frigid temperatures made it difficult for firefighters to do their job in fire in East Grand Rapids. At one point, temperatures dropped to -10 degrees in the area. The house fire started early Thursday morning on Wealthy Street across from Spectrum Heatlh Blodgett Hospital. 

"The homeowner was concerned about some records and personal items and I didn't have information to provide them at that time, so I don't know what is salvageable and what is not, it's just too hazardous to get in there and tell," East Grand Rapids Public Safety Captain of Support Services, Brian Williams said.

Piece by piece, the homeowners were packing up everything they could. Their house was engulfed in flames and appears to be a total loss.  

The ice cold temperatures made fighting those flames, a challenge, according to the firefighters on the scene that we talked to. 

"As soon as you start spraying water, of course, it starts to freeze in those temperatures and it became an ice skating rink out there," Williams said.

Several firefighters slipped and fell, fortunately with only minor injuries. 

"You got to keep your pumps running, you got to keep water circulating, keep the hose lines open when they're not in use so the water doesn't freeze we actually did have one freeze up on us a little bit and it was a struggle to get it going again," Williams said.

The water almost instantly turned to ice. 

"As soon as you spray water and it hits that aluminum ladder, it's solid ice, and everything just, the dangers go up severely," Williams said.

The negative temperatures mixed with heavy gear and icy surfaces takes a toll, he added.  

"You can only fight a fire so long and you become exhausted just from fighting the fire so you become somewhat idle and then you have to get into the trucks and stay warm, keep your body temperature up in case you're needed again, so we were rotating personnel in and out," Williams said.

Public Safety officers said the homeowners had some painters in the home recently but the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
 

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