Brutal Wind Chills Mean Brutal Firefighting Conditions

SUPERIOR, Wis. – With wind chill temperatures at 30, 40 or 50 below zero, it’s probably safe to say nobody likes that type of weather, especially firefighters.

The dangerous conditions happened just two days ago for Superior firefighters who were fighting brutally cold air during the Wasabi restaurant fire on Tower Avenue.

Battalion Chief Steve Miner described what it’s like for his men and women when they face flames, water and freezing temps.

“When we enter a structure fire, the personnel, they’re working hard, they are sweating under their gear, and then the exterior portion of the gear is getting saturated with water and debris from the fire. When they exit, that water then freezes and creates an icy situation with the gear,” Miner said.

It’s a dangerous combination of conditions on the body that Miner said keeps him extra alert by making sure the urgency to fight the fire doesn’t get in the way of health and safety.

“In those cases, we have to be mindful to rotate personnel around, try to rehab them, get them into a warm environment and just cycle people through more often and keep an eye on exposure-related issues,” Miner said.

The extreme cold is also hard on equipment. Miner said things freeze up fast or don’t work as well.

Firefighters have to keep water flowing at all times through the hose lines so they don’t freeze up, which means much more water on the ground and a slip-and-fall hazard.

As for Wasabi, the building is a total loss.  A cause is under investigation.  The owners say they will rebuild.

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