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The Challenges of Fire Calls in Extreme Weather

The Kindersley Fire Brigade does an excellent job of responding to calls no matter what the weather is, and, as we all know, in Saskatchewan, we can wake up with snow in the morning and be barbequing in shorts and a t-shirt by 6 p.m.

Firefighting is a challenge, but when extreme weather conditions are present, things are different. Everything moves slower in minus temperatures cold. Apparatus’ slow down due to poor road conditions, firefighters must move slower on snow and ice, equipment freezes up, and there is the added risk of frostbite, frozen toes and fingers. Gear can also become coated in ice which makes it very heavy and impossible to bend and manoeuvre.

High temperatures and heat-related illness is also serious business, and firefighters are particularly at risk with high temperatures. Hydration is critical, but it’s easy for firefighters to get overheated due to the combination of ground conditions, PPE and summer heat

A few weeks ago, a call came in where the crew was fighting a fire in, at least, minus 35 weather, which had us wondering exactly what is would be like fighting a fire when it’s that cold?

So for that reason, we recently caught up with Fire Chief Ron Hope who shared with us some of the challenges extreme weather can bring for the crew.

Over the years, I’m sure the different seasons and weather conditions (wind, rain, ice, snow) bring a certain amount of challenges, on top of the ones you already face.

In your opinion:

What is more difficult to fight a fire in, winter or summer?
While both summer and winter fires come with their own set of challenges, winter fire fighting in my opinion is more challenging.

Which elements are most challenging? Snow, ice, wind, cold or heat?
Definitely the cold is the most challenging and that also comes in the form of wind chill

Do you have a fire that stands out in your mind as being the most memorable due to weather conditions?
The Hub City Sports, Longtin Drugs and Kindersley Paint & Paper Back Store fires of Dec 1989 are some of the most memorable. The fire occurred during the night hours so was very cold and we had a few hours of poor visibility with a short snowstorm that blew through.

Lastly, a little off-topic, but the Fire Department recently acquired a new truck, how will this help the crew on calls?
The new Apparatus recently purchased by the RM of Kindersley NO. 290 will be a great asset to our department. The new vehicle is a 2020 (Rosenbauer Coyote) Freightliner 4X4 Urban Interface Fire Apparatus powered by a 400 Cummins Engine. This unit known is E11K or Engine 1, carries 3400 litres (750 gallons) of water and has a Class A foam system, SCBA seats for 4 crew, on board inverter to power equipment, booster reels on both sides of the unit, front bumper monitor, grass nozzles, and front bumper speed line. It has a 840 gallon per minute Rosenbauer pump with a high pressure pump. This is an all-around unit that will assist us in all types of incidents, from structure fires to vehicle fires, grass fires etc.

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