Local News

Firefighters battle both flames, extreme cold temperatures

SPOKANE, Wash. - While many of us hunker down inside during these extremely cold temperatures, first responders are braving the elements to keep the community safe.

On Tuesday evening, Spokane County Fire District 4 responded to a shop fire near Chattaroy and fought the flames until almost 4 a.m. as temperatures dipped almost to zero.

"The cold in general takes a toll on everything we do," said Fire Chief Randy Johnson.

Spokane Fire District 4 Fire Chief Randy Johnson and about 25 other firefighters responded to shop fire near Chattaroy just before 10:30 p.m., and were out in the elements for hours.

"It was pretty well fully involved when the first crews arrived," Johnson said.

With weather forecasts predicting single digit and below zero temperatures, firefighters have to adapt to the conditions.

"'[The weather] just compounds everything you do in these conditions, it takes more effort, more forethought to keep everything moving," he explained.

First responders often run into issues with roadways and sidewalks.

"This particular residence was plowed and in good shape," Johnson said, "we don't run into that a lot. A lot of times we're dealing wtih driveways that haven't been plowed or area lot harder to access."

Once they get on scene, it's a delicate dance to make sure the equipment stays working.

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

And special care is given to look after the firefighters themselves.

"We did up the number of folks we would normally have on this type of scene to allow for that rehab and cycling of crews to keep folks warm and productive," he said.

As they head out to these types of scenes, Chief Johnson says crews brace themselves for what's to come.

"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.

And while these conditions are challenging, Chief Johnson and his crew are prepared. After all, it's just part of being a firefighter in the Inland Northwest.

"The crews keep a pretty good attitude," he said. "They have a job to do."

No one was injured in that fire and it is still under investigation.

To make the firefighters' jobs a little easier, Chief Johnson asks you keep access to your home available. Your walkway and driveways should shoveled and free of ice.