Cold weather a hazard for local firefighters - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Cold weather a hazard for local firefighters

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(02/28/14) - It's been a long week, and a long winter, for firefighters battling flames - and the elements.

Perhaps Chris Olberg of Saginaw describes our winter best.

"It's terrible, it's terrible. It's not fit for man or beast," he said.

Some don't have the option of staying out of the cold. When someone calls for help, they must answer.

"This cold, it gets bad, and when it's real hot and humid, it makes it worse. So the weather extremes," said Dan Willoughby, Saginaw Battalion Chief.

From Saginaw to Flint Township, and all around Mid-Michigan, this week's brutal winter blast has been tough on first responders.

"Stretching lines takes a lot out of you, and you've got to trudge it through 2, 3 feet of snow," Willoughby said.

Making their jobs even more difficult - the frequent calls in the middle of the night.

A fire early Wednesday morning in Flint Township claimed the life of a mother of two and injured both children. It was an emotionally and physically draining fire for the crews that turned out.

"Our guys are getting froze up and they have to sit in the trucks to thaw out again," said Flint Township Fire Chief John Ringwelski.

All the water used on those fires quickly turns to dangerous ice when the temperatures dip.

"Slippery. I'm surprised no one's fallen," Willoughby said.

The Flint Township fire was caused by "careless discard of smoking materials" and a fire in Saginaw is still under investigation. There are reports of an explosion, with debris a house away.

That caught the attention of Olberg, who is thankful he's out on a brisk winter morning because he wants to be - not because he has to be.

"I'm sorry they do, but somebody's got to," he said.

The cold weather also forced firefighters to call in extra crews from other departments in Bridgeport, Friday morning.

They were called to a home on Moore near Sheridan Roads around 6 a.m.

A man who uses oxygen was able to get out of the house OK.

A firefighter was slightly injured when his foot went through the floor on the second level.

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