CORALVILLE, Iowa – Through the week, lows will be creeping towards, and in some cases dropping below, zero. Local firefights have no choice but to be out in it, beating back hot flames while tolerating the cold.
"As you can imagine, water and zero degree temperature don't mix very well," said Coralville Fire Department Assistant Chief Orey Schwitzer.
Schwitzer said for crews to stay safe, first and foremost, firefighters need to stay warm. Frostbite and hypothermia can be trouble. Schwitzer said he recommends crews wear heavier than normal clothes under gear, and keep extra socks and gloves handy.
Plus, Schwitzer said on particularly cold days the department often brings a city bus to fires.
"They just use that to get in out of the wind. Of course city buses are heated, so you have a little bit of heat," said Schwitzer.
Another issue is ice. Hose spray and mist can coats surroundings and quickly freeze.
"A lot of slips and falls. The ground freezes. The roadways freeze," said Schwitzer.
Ice can break equipment too, tearing hoses and busting water pumps in trucks. To avoid it, firefighters keep water flowing through lines, even when they're not being used.
"We always got to keep water moving. Even if we're not actually flowing water onto a fire, we usually have a hose line that's open a little bit. Just enough to keep things from freezing," said Schwitzer.
If you want to keep firefighters from heading out to chilly fires in the first place, officials said to be careful with space heaters. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates space heaters account for more than 25,000 residential fires, every year.