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Firefighters battle the cold temperatures

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

January 24, 2011 — Frigid temperatures across eastern Canada have left people shivering, including firefighters.

Masks freeze up making it difficult to breathe
Masks freeze up making it difficult to breathe

Temperatures have recently plummeted across eastern Canada, with some areas feeling in the -40's with the windchill.

“That's the kind of temperature that makes your face hurt simply running to the car,” says The Weather Network's Maritime reporter Shelley Steeves. And as Steeves found out, the cold weather makes it difficult for those trying to fight fires as well.

The plunging temperatures can make it hard for firefighters to breath as their masks can completely freeze up.

“If they are going into a building that is 200 degrees and they come outside to 30 below with the chill factor and that freezes. They now can't breathe,” says Don McCabe with the Moncton Fire Department.

Water needs to be flowing at all times which could create ice
Water needs to be flowing at all times which could create ice

Not only are fire crews worried about their own gear freezing up, the frigid temperatures can also create problems with the equipment they use.

“The truck is all on levers and air activated switches and they have a tendency to freeze and the valves freeze. So the driver is constantly making sure things are open,” notes McCabe. ” And if they shut down when it's really cold, the water will freeze in the line and the nozzle and they won't get the lines open again.”

Although it's critical for the water to continue flowing at all times, the constant stream can lead to flash freezing. McCabe says there's the possibility for an ice load because of the freezing temperatures. Ice build up can make a fire scene even more dangerous, especially if ladders and roofs are covered in it.

“We've had fires where the fire trucks are embedded in ice at the end of the fire and we have to pick them out,” says McCabe.

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