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Firefighters battle bitterly cold weather

Bitterly cold temperatures can take a toll on everybody, but particularly first responders.

Firefighters in particular face unique challenges in below freezing temperatures because of their use of water.

In below freezing temperatures, water can quickly freeze on firefighters’ equipment and the ground, making for a potentially dangerous environment.

However, firefighters embrace ice forming on their bunker gear.

“If you can create ice on your outer garment, that keeps the wind from penetrating and actually keeps you warm,” Boone County Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief Gale Blomenkamp said. “It’s an insulating factor.”

But the freezing bunker gear acting as an igloo may be the only perk of working in single digit and below temperatures.

While the fire is still burning, firefighters can stay a little warm by the flames. But afterward is when they begin to feel the effects of the cold weather.

“Once the fire is out and you’re outside, now you’re freezing up,” Blomenkamp said.”Your gloves are freezing. Your equipment is freezing. Your air pack is freezing so now you’re not able to get on air so you have to thaw those out.”

To try and slow the effects of the bitterly cold weather, just like in extreme heat, firefighters will rotate crews while working the fire.

“Regardless whether it’s hot or cold, people are only able to work in those conditions for a period of time before they’re required to take a break,” Blomenkamp said.

The city of Columbia Fire Department has a bus they and BCFPD can use to keep firefighters warm.

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