Homeless, first responders cope with bitter cold

Homeless, first responders cope with bitter cold

While most of us will avoid going out in the cold, the homeless population of Spokane, and the first responders who are often outside with them, brave dangerously cold temperatures all the time.

“The cold in general takes a toll on everything we do,” said Spokane Fire district 4 Chief Randy Johnson.

Johnson and about 25 other firefighters responded to a shop fire near Chattaroy  on Tuesday night and were out in the elements for hours.

With work that has to be done, firefighters must adapt quickly.

“It just compounds everything you do in these conditions, it takes more effort, more forethought to keep everything,” Johnson said.

Fire district four brought extra crews to the call… so firefighters could cycle in and out of the cold throughout the night.

If they stop working  for even a moment, their gear could stop working, too.

“If you stop for any amount of time, hoses will freeze, pumps will freeze, so we have to keep everything moving,” Johnson said.

The crews are used to it, but that doesn’t make it easy.

“It does run through your mind when the alarm goes off and you know you’re about to go out into single digit temperatures and be wet and deal with snow and ice for the next few hours so it does weigh on you,” Johnson said.

They’re not the only ones- Many people are stuck outside on the streets of Spokane, where hypothermia is a bitter reality.

The city is working on getting a 24/7 shelter system  up and running to keep as many people out of the cold as possible.

House of Charity is currently open 24 hours. Folks can check in for the night there as late as 4:00 a.m.

The shelter often sees between 180 and 220 people a night, looking for relief from the cold.