Firefighters brace for more tough weather as the county urges fire safety

(WHAM photo)

A tough week for firefighters in Chili after battling four fires within 48 hours in frigid temperatures.

The County is now urging fire safety during the holidays.

The Gates Fire Department is gearing up for even more tough weather to come.

While they go through extensive training, nothing can prepare them for fighting fire in sub-zero temperatures.

“Your average person is not going to last 30 minutes outside. You're talking about frostbite. It's gonna set in very quickly,” said Joseph Manuse, the Fire Prevention Officer at Gates Fire Department.

Manuse says in frigid conditions, he's watching his crews for hypothermia.

“Your adrenaline is pumping, the heat of the fire is helping a little but from a standpoint where it keeps us warm. But once things slow down that's when the problems start to happen; shaking, shivering. When their face gets really red, they've been out in the cold too long,” explained Manuse.

He rotates crews every 20-30 while making sure equipment is working in case they get called to another fire, like the four back-to-back fires in Chili.

“When you freeze the pump, that's it. You can't do anymore work, can't get anymore water on the fire,” Manuse added.

Fire crews maintain equipment, all while monitoring icy conditions that create major harzards. “Water was freezing along the roadway, so we had to make sure people weren't slipping and falling. Seconds count. Lives matter. Property is in danger. We have to be ready for all that.”

With more frigid weather to come, they prepare winter gear for the next call.

“You come back, and yes you're frozen. Guys will jump in the hot shower, but at the end of the day, if nobody's been hurt, and nobody's lost their life in the fire, the morale is great.”

Fire prevention is critical. Firefighters want to remind you that having a smoke alarm increases your chances of surviving a fire by 50%. Gates Fire Department will install smoke alarms at no cost.

Other Fire Prevention Tips:

  • Make sure fire hydrants are clear.
  • Candle fires happen most frequently during December. There are four days with the most fires: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day.
  • Watch out for pets knocking candles over. Never leave candles near a bed, and while it’s a common use, fire crews say to never use them in a bedroom.
  • As an alternative, use flameless candles that are battery operated. Never use a candle as a source of light if power goes out. Instead, have flashlights ready.
  • When using a space heaters, keep the heater at least five feet away from bed sheets, couches, drapes, and make sure to use a space heater that is UL certified. if it tips over, it will shut off.
  • Make sure exhaust on the back of the house from the furnace is clear so the furnace works properly.
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