Firefighters share challenges when fighting fires in cold weather


Fighting fires in the cold can present some challenges.

There were two fires Monday morning, one at an apartment complex in West Ashley and another at a home in Cross.

When the temperatures drop, the number of fires tend to rise.

For firefighters, putting them out in cold weather can create challenges for working conditions.

Interim Fire Chief for the Charleston Fire Department John Tippett says one of the most significant challenges is comfort and protection from the cold.

“The weather we had in the last 24 hours where the wind chill is particularly problematic for us, creates an environment where you just cant see to get comfortable, and when you get wet from fighting the fire you go from sweating to getting wet,” Tippett said.

That can lead to hypothermia, a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it produces it.

Firefighters at Station 11 were the first to arrive to the fire at the apartment complex on Dupont Road in West Ashley.

They responded within three minutes and had the rapidly spreading fire out in about 10 with the assistance of other departments.

“Made a quick aggressive attack and the fire seems to go out very quickly,” Captain of Engine 11 Donovan Richardson said.

Their focus is doing the best job they can, not the weather.

“When you’re putting it out you’re not really realizing it, it’s afterward when the fire is all over with and you got wet gear and the cold brisk wind on you that you kind of come down from the adrenaline level and the adrenaline rush and you realize how cold you really are,” said William Bristow an Engine 11 engineer.

Tippett says on cold days the department allows firefighters to wear layers thought it can impact mobility.

“When you have 105, 120 heat index in Charleston, South Carolina fighting fires in 20 degree weather might not be so bad,” Bristow said.

Fire officials determined the cause of the fire at the apartment complex to likely be an ignited incense.

Ten people were displaced.

Emergency officials say the Cross fire was likely started by a space heater and the family was displaced as well.

Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.