Dangers of winter firefighting increase with frigid temperatures

By Marshanna Hester

January 6, 2014 Updated Jan 7, 2014 at 12:11 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Fighting fires and saving lives isn't any easier in frigid weather.

Crews say most of their calls have been carbon monoxide related and people falling outside.

But, getting to those calls is half the battle on snow packed roads.

Once they do, they need extra manpower just do their life-saving work.

In fact, just last week, multiple crews battled cold temps while fighting to put out flames at a house fire that was believed to have been caused by a space heater.

Firefighters say the elements make it hard to function at even the smallest fires, like one Monday night at a Peoria recycling center.

"It's usually after the fire we start to see problems," said Battalion Chief Michael Morgan. "Guys are sweating. It's making you a lot colder. That's when we need to rotate company's out. The water itself gets on you and freezes your gloves in position and your coats.

"It's part of the job. We know what it is when we sign up for it," said Jay Simmons, Peoria firefighter. "It's not easy going out in the cold and wind, but the city does a good job of equipping us with appropriate gear and attire to bear the elements.

Simmons says that means wearing full fire gear at all calls.

You can help fire crews respond efficiently and safely.

They say if you're driving on snowy roads and see an emergency vehicle approaching, do your best to get over safely and quickly.