Cold weather creates challenges for first responders - WNEM TV 5

Cold weather creates challenges for first responders

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

Dealing with the freezing temperatures is difficult for most people in Michigan.

It's a much different challenge for the first responders trying to save lives when it's this cold.

"Everything becomes icy. The ladders become icy, becomes another hazard. Every piece of equipment gets icy as soon as the ice hits it," said Brad Luczak, engineer for the Saginaw Fire Department.

He said their equipment needs extra attention this time of year.

"We have to make sure the hose doesn't freeze and the pump doesn't freeze to make sure if we're battling a fire we're constantly pumping water," Luczak said.

The firetrucks remain inside a heated garage when they are not in use.

However, the trucks don't have four wheel drive and can take longer to get to a fire when the roads are bad.

As for keeping warm, the firefighters wear thick gear but sometimes it can be a burden.

"The gear is heavy. It gets heavier when it's wet. You're slipping and sliding around. We also forget you have to stay hydrated even though it's cold outside," Fire Capt. James Champney said.

Champney said each person has a second set of gear in case there's another fire and their first set is soaked through with water and ice. Their biggest obstacle is all the ice that forms after putting out a fire.

"It's very hazardous. After the fire you think the challenge is over. We keep salt buckets on the truck to salt everything you can because you let your guard down after the fire and end up falling on your butt. Happens every fire in the winter," Champney said.

At MMR, they have more equipment with them when it's this cold.

"Make sure there's plenty of blankets on the vehicles for the patients. Making sure they're staying extra warm in this weather. We have towels we can put across their heads and stuff," said Bill Weaver, paramedic supervisor with MMR.

They also leave their ambulances running while they are out so their equipment doesn't freeze up.

It's not just the patients battling the cold, but EMTs as well. Their line of work means they could be outdoors a long time trying to save lives.

"Our fingers get cold, but we still have jobs to do. We can't warm up while we wait for the fire department to use the tools to get people out of a bad accident. You know, we're right out there with them," Weaver said.

He said EMTs wear a lot of layers to stay warm.

That's something Saginaw County sheriff deputies can't do as easily.

"We have the same uniform year round. So it's up to to each individual deputy to make sure they layer up with whatever undergarments they want to wear, thermal leggings and tops," Sheriff Bill Federspiel said.

That makes it a cold job, especially for deputies directing traffic.

Federspiel said they often wear thick boots. He also said it's imperative for them to keep their vehicles on.

"It's so the computers don't freeze in the cars and so our windshields don't get iced over because the next emergency run may be seconds away. They need to be ready to go at all times," Federspiel said.

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