SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. – A two-story home in Deer Park was destroyed by a fire on Saturday and in bitterly cold conditions, firefighters struggled to get the blaze under control. Fire crews said winter weather is some of the most challenging conditions faced by emergency crews.
The home in Deer Park was a total loss, but there were no injuries. Crews from the Spokane County Fire District 4 said they worked for hours to put out the blaze and were challenged by the below-freezing temps.
“Anytime we have those cold temperatures, any of the water that starts to run off creates icy conditions and hazards for the firefighters,” Spokane Co. Fire District 4 Chief Lonnie Rash said.
Rash said they sometimes have to bring in more crew members because of the cold.
“One of those issues really is the fatigue factor for our firefighters,” Rash said. “When we arrive on scene we start applying water to the fire, the water that runs off freezes, and then it creates hazardous conditions with slipping and falling.”
Rash also said they have to make sure their crews are rehabbed back into a place where they can get warm so they can go back to work.
Rash said it is not just the firefighters they have to worry about – their equipment too.
“We do have nozzles or fittings or valves that will freeze up,” he said.
Stevens County fire crews were in a similar situation just a few days ago, after a fire broke out just outside Colville.
“We had a lot of problems with our SCBAs and mask and our regulators freezing up,” Stevens County Fire Chief Brad Manke said. “We had to rotate guys in and out so their regulators would thaw.”
Rash said typically when the temperature drops, the number of calls go up. They see problems with heating systems. More car accidents because of icy roads, and limited visibility.
Rash also said there are more EMS calls for people who cannot get themselves medical attention.
“It really isn’t much different than we normally operate, we just know that we need to prepare for it.”
You can do your part to help out local fire crews, make sure snow is not accumulating on signs or fire hydrants in your neighborhood.