Firefighters Overcome Cold Weather Challenges Using Cat Litter, Anti-Freeze

Posted at 6:58 PM, Jan 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-07 19:56:06-05

HOLLAND, Mich. — Firefighters that have been battling extreme cold and driving snow say this is the mean season.

“It`s just a really bad trying to work this time of year,” said Chris Tinney, Holland Fire Captain. “It becomes very difficult to move.”

Two of the more dramatic fires occurring in this weather situation took place at Fifth Third Ballpark Friday and at a home overnight on Oakleigh in Grand Rapids.

One of the biggest challenges, keeping a decent body temperature in the heavy gear.

“You try to do the best you can,” said Tinney.
The standard turnout gear is something that fire crews would be wearing in both the summertime and the wintertime. There is three layers of protection, in these uniforms, however, they`re not really designed to keep firefighters warm.

“The water goes right through and now you`re inside the house, outside the house and it gets cold and your fingers will go numb,” said John VanderKooy, Holland Fire Dept.

Rubber boots can also lose traction on the ice caused by fire hoses.

“They are very slippery,” said VanderKooy.

Icy ladders can pose a hazard as well.

“You hit that ladder and you`re sliding back and forth,” said Tinney.

Compartment doors on the engines cal also freeze shut.

“It`s hard to get the door open and the equipment out,” said VanderKooy.

Gauge lines can freeze too, causing the gauge itself to break and the cast-iron pump is at risk.

Without the proper care, Tinney says it can freeze and fracture, some of the damages happening within 15 to 30 minutes.

“There`s water already in here, so that would be water susceptible to freezing,” said Tinney.

But firefighters do have a few tricks  that they use to battle the cold weather.

To prevent freeze up, they use a special non-toxic anti-freeze in a spray bottle.

“The pump operator, engineer for the day will come by and simply spray those down,” said Tinney.

And, to get better traction, crews keep cat litter handy.

They also call in for help from the city.

“A lot of times we call for a salt truck, from the city,, the street department will come out provide that,” said Tinney.