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The Frigid Challenges of Wintertime Firefighting

DE PERE, Wis. - When they need to get out the door, firefighters have enough to worry about.
But sometimes winter gets in the way.

"It's harder on everybody and everything," said Rich Annen, Assistant Fire Chief for De Pere.

A firefighter's greatest ally can shapeshift into a nightmare.

"When you play with water, you're going to get wet," he said. "The closer you are to the nozzle, the wetter you're going to get."

In severe cold, every call has multiple responders because these biting temperatures can knock off firefighters in a hurry.
They run cycles to give everyone time to warm up.

"The wind chills we're going to be dealing with this week, under ten minutes and you can get frostbite," said Steve Sellin, Green Bay's Battalion Chief.

It is all about resources.
And sometimes they need to be excavated.

"On our computers, we know there's a hydrant here," he said. "We can't find it because it's under a snowbank. Now, you're poking it with a pole trying to find the Hydrant so you can dig it out."

Every firefighter has a winter go-bag.
Boots, gloves, hand warmers, and extra layers of warmth.

Each truck gets packed with extra supplies, too, like shovels and salt.
But water, again, can cause problems.

"If the hose lines freeze up, we could delay our fire extinguishment," said Annen. "If the pumps would happen to freeze, that can get real serious. We could even lose a structure because of that."

And they could use our help.

"Clear that hydrant, make it accessible for the fire crews," he said. "And, of course, any time we have to go through the snow to throw ladders up to the windows or to the roof, that also compounds our ability to function normally."

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