Storm Center 7

How winter weather impacts our first responders

Imagine battling a fire in sub-zero temperatures or trying to get a life squad through a foot of snow. I went behind the scenes with local firefighters and paramedics for a look at how severe winter weather affects their mission to save lives.

The snow, ice and cold add precious time to almost every task.

ICE AND FIRE: Middletown firefighters battle 2 fires in dangerously cold conditions

"The conditions definitely makes it a lot tougher for all of us," said Deputy Chief David Adams of the Middletown Fire Department.

So far this winter we have seen bitter cold snaps, with the temperature dropping to thirteen below zero one morning early in January. Every time we get below freezing, first responders have a new set of rules to follow.

"We have to assign additional resources to that emergency scene to ensure that it stays safe," Scott Jacobs Dayton Fire Prevention Inspector.

Winter weather also means concern for the crews who are often wet and cold. Being out in the elements can take a toll on fire fighters who can be on a scene for six to eight hours!

DOWNLOAD: Winter weather at your fingertips with the free WHIO Weather App

"We try to set up so we can rotate these guys and gals in and out so they get an opportunity to get warm," explained Chief David Reichert from Fairborn Department.

"We have a lot of heavy clothes. The fire gear is designed to keep water out," said Scott Jacobs. "What a lot of people don't realize is ,that a heavy amount of exertion will cause sweat even when its zero degrees outside."

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Fire fighters said 80 percent of people who call for help need an ambulance and each unit carries two crew members and a medic. In the winter, there is also a shovel and bag of salt in case the truck gets stuck or the roads are slick.

"We are trained heavily in emergency response and when you throw snow on top of that, it adds to that level of confusion," said Jacobs. "We have to anticipate everybody doing anything. We never know what another driver is going to do."

To help firefighters and paramedics do their job, make sure you go right for sirens and lights. Also, keep a path clear from the sidewalk to your door in case you or your family members need an ambulance. They also ask you to clean off the fire hydrants near your home.