Firefighters Face Tougher Challenges Working In Freezing Conditions

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The cold temperatures we've been seeing are hard for anyone to handle, but especially tough for firefighters.

With water being a firefighter's number one resource, keeping their hands and feet warm is crucial in the frigid temperatures. They said they always make sure to carry extra socks and gloves, but fighting fires in the cold makes an already difficult job even more challenging.

"Every surface that's not on fire becomes ice and that creates its own challenges," said Capt. Ryan Rains, Fort Smith Fire Department.

Ice froze onto firefighters' gear at a hour fire early Monday morning (Jan. 1). It wasn't an ideal way for anyone to start the new year.

"You get stiff and you have to bend over and break it up," Rains said.

That's not the only concern.

"It gets in the road, so we could create a road hazard with out water if we're not careful," Rains said. "We kind of have to keep that in mind."

Crews spent two hours battling flames at the home on Towson Avenue. The cause was determined to be accidental. Fire marshal Ronnie Rogers said the homeowner laid a small blow torch on his bed, lit a cigarette and left the room. He came back to find his bed and curtains on fire. Firefighters said the man went to the hospital, but is now out and doing okay.

Rains said that fire has been the most challenging so far this winter.

"As far as with the conditions of stuff turning to ice, we just don't get a lot of that in Arkansas," he said.

He said most fires this time of year are caused by chimneys and space heaters.

"People need to have their chimneys swept every year," Rains said.

He also urges people to get carbon monoxide detectors.

"A simple fire can put off carbon monoxide, and that's one of those things where when you find out about it, it's kind of too late," Rains said. "A carbon monoxide detector will save your life."

He said he hopes more people will follow these life-saving tips, so less fires happen this winter. When they inevitably happen, firefighters said the most important thing is staying dry.

"Everyone's had cold hands and feet, so they know how miserable it is." Rains said. "If you can change out into something nice and warm, then you'll be miles ahead."

Bad road conditions cannot stop firefighters from doing there job, so they have chains and cables they put on tires to keep them from going off the road.

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