Fire Departments, Including Prospect Heights And Chicago, Take Extra Precautions For Extended Cold Weather

Firefighting in extremely cold weather no doubt gets more complicated. Not only are fires more likely when people use unsafe methods to heat homes, but fires are harder to fight. Firefighters are more likely to face frozen or broken fire hydrants, unplowed fire hydrants, or other access problems because of snow obstructions. Icy conditions make it more difficult to walk on the fire scene, and injuries to knees, ankles, and low back are more likely. More crews are also needed for rotation to avoid hypothermia and frostbite.

As of Saturday, January 4th at 6:00 P.M. the Prospect Heights Fire District has increased the on-duty staff to ensure it can respond to an incident without the immediate need for assistance from other neighboring communities. The increased staffing ensures an extra ambulance is available and that the fire district's water tanker can respond to any fire, not just in those areas without fire hydrants.

According to Fire Chief Don Gould, "In deep snow fire hydrant access can be difficult and in extreme cold water mains may break or hydrant freeze making them not useable. The water tanker can improve response in these situation." Also in cold weather the pump on a fire engine may freeze if water stored inside is not flowing out of a hose. Since many calls require extra personnel, but not the fire pump, additional staff responds in other fire vehicles as needed.

The fire district has long had a plan for these situations. In most years this plan has to be activated at least once as they have done currently. So far there have been no fires or emergencies directly related to the severe weather. The fire chief recommends residents call 9-1-1 as soon as they recognize any problem and not wait as response time is already increased due to the severe weather.

Chicago Fire Department was also busy over the weekend clearing fire hydrants, and looking for parking violations and non-functioning fire hydrants. Several fire hydrants were found with missing caps. Thieves often take the fire hydrant caps to access brass threads or to take the caps for recycling cash. Chicago firefighters also found several location where vehicles were parked in front of fire hydrants. Police were notified and the vehicles were immediately towed.

Also in Chicago, fire chiefs ordered all fire apparatus to top off their fuel tanks by 6:00 p.m. Sunday -- coincidentally the start of the Wind Chill Warning.

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