winter fires, fire safety, firefighters
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Cold weather multiplies the danger level for firefighters, and it all stems from the one resource they use most: water. According to Greg Jakubowski, a fire protection engineer and certified safety professional, “Weather extremes take their toll on both equipment and people. The key to averting a bad outcome: preparation. To effectively fight fire, water must be kept moving.”

There is no magic to winter firefighting. It comes down to some planning and hard work. You often see firemen covered in ice during winter fires. So, in addition to the fire hazards, the freezing temperatures of winter also present a danger. The key is that they keep their personnel and water moving at all times.

Firemen break up any ice by using rock salt and sand, and every other basic winter weather tactic, to keep their mission on track. Fortunately, most fire hydrants are dry-barrel hydrants that connect with a water main buried beneath the frost line, the depth to which the ground typically freezes in the winter. This connection includes a pair of valves, the main valve and the drain valve. When opened, the main valve sends water into the fire hydrant and the drain valve is automatically closed. The drain valve automatically opens when the main valve is shut. It then allows the water to drain out of the hydrant and back into the water main without allowing any water back in, so that the hydrant isn’t full of water that would freeze during the cold.

The most important thing is that when the fire has been completely taken care of, firemen will quickly break down hydrants and hose lines as quickly as possible once water stops flowing, then drain them to ensure they don’t freeze up.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Spring 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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