York City firefighters battle the cold weather

YORK, Pa. -- As firefighters face the flames head on, it might seem as though the heat would make their job easier in the winter than the summer.

Many of us are bundled up on a cold day with a hat, scarf, and gloves, but imagine what it must be like for firefighters who also are layered up, as they head in and out of a burning building.

Even though winter is here, things haven't cooled off for firefighters called into action.

York City Fire and Rescue Services deputy chief Chad Deardorf said "in the summer, your body heat is already up here from being in the fire, so when you come out, it stays up there, when you come out of a fire in the winter, it just drops."

"You know how you feel when you come out of your 68, 70, 72 degree house, into 16, 17 degree weather, come out of an 800, 900 degree temperature to 15, 16, 17 degrees. It's a shock," Deardorf added.

York City Fire and Rescue Services firefighter Zach Anthony said "in the winter, you're going to sweat more. When you get out of the fire, there's no relief, but then also you get wet fighting a fire."

It's a lesson learned for Anthony...bring a change of clothes.

"I know my first year here, I did fight a fire, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter. I didn't have extra clothes. It wasn't a fun night at all, for a few hours you're pretty much outside in wet clothes, that's starting to freeze," Anthony said.

"I keep an extra shirt, and sweatshirt in the truck, in case they get wet during a call, because we can be out for five minutes, we can be out for five hours," Anthony added.

The low temps can take a toll not only on firefighters, but their gear as well.

"It takes your mask, fogs it up, takes your body, and your body just feels that cold instantly," Deardorf said.

"When you come out of a fire in the winter, your gear freezes, your gloves freeze, your clothes freeze, and there's no relief, from the cold," Anthony said.

"We take rehab seriously, and put them into a heated position, whether that be in the apparatus. Large scale incidents, we may get a RabbitTransit bus," Deardorf said.

While some crews are warming up inside, others may continue to pour water, and a lot of it, on the fire outside.

"We obviously flow copious amounts of water to extinguish a fire, and its got to freeze," Deardorf said.

"If there's a big fire, there's water everywhere, we'll freeze the whole road. It will just be pretty much a skating rink," Anthony said.

"We've had instances where we had a hose that was literally froze over in the street. It's not fun, not at all. We like to get in and get our thing done and get out," Deardorf said.

It's a job that deputy chief Deardorf and his team are prepared to battle this winter.

"It takes a lot longer to warm back up than to cool down. WE have methods with fans, mist fans and cool towels, and stuff in the summer to get guys cooled down," Deardorf said.

"I'd much rather do this in the summer than the winter," Deardorf added.

"Once your fingers get cold, or your feet get cold, the rest of your body is done. Your entire body can be freezing cold, as long as your hands and feet are warm, you're alright," Anthony said.

During the winter, firefighters will often leave the fire truck engine running.

"When it gets really cold, even if we're on an accident scene, a lot of times we'll just run the pump to keep the water from. There's actually a lever to circulate the water through the pump, and we'll actually do that to keep the water from freezing," Anthony said.

There's one other thing firefighters can do during a cold spell.

"Grit your teeth and keep going, that's all. It's a job to do and there are times when it's fun, and there are times when it's not fun," Anthony said.