Firefighters use extra caution in extreme cold

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — When the fire alarm sounds, firefighters spring into action, no matter what the weather is like outside.

But in these bitter cold conditions, there are some precautions crews have to take when fighting a fire.

“The fire scene becomes a skating rink, so we have to try and throw salt and everything to keep the guys from slipping,” said Youngstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary DiTullio.

DiTullio said his crews are trained in cold weather operations and procedures. But it’s actually the combination of bitter cold air and water from equipment that can stop a firefighter in their tracks.

“We got to rotate our crews often, get them in a warm climate if we’re going to be out there for an extended period of time. Their gear will freeze up. It’s very hard to bend your extremities once the gear freezes up,” DiTullio said.

As the chief talked Monday evening about staying hydrated and keeping hydrants and hoses from freezing, a call comes in to Youngstown Fire Station No. 1. about a possible structure fire on the west side of town.

DiTullio and firefighters bundled up and raced out of the station. It turned out the call on North Bon Air Avenue was for a faulty electrical outlet. He said they don’t see as many vacant house fires when it’s this cold outside.

“We get more of the fires where there’s been heating issues, something with the furnace, people trying to heat their homes, electrical problems. We get more occupied structures in this type of weather,” DiTullio said.

As crews chase the next call, DiTullio reminds folks not to run generators inside their homes and keep an eye on any candles or space heaters.

“We pride ourselves with our response times. No matter what the weather,” he said.

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