Tips for Wintertime Firefighting Operations

With winter conditions soon approaching, the fire service is left to contend with additional demands due to heavy snowfall and extreme temperature conditions. The hazards and complications of winter firefighting can be overcome by firefighters developing...

Firefighters should also replace any wet clothing immediately as wet clothes will cool down the body's core temperature much quicker than air alone. Keeping a bag with a dry change of clothes, extra gloves, socks and hats on the apparatus is a good idea during winter months.

Structural Concerns & Equipment

In addition to the obvious fall hazards, ice will present other hazards and problems on the fireground.

As water is applied to a burning structure it will freeze and not run off. As more and more water is applied, ice will cause additional weight and stress on structural members increasing collapse potential.

Locks and halyards on ladders can become frozen making them inoperable or difficult to move. Aerial ladders can become caked with ice increasing weight loads on them resulting in failure or twisting of the ladder.

Cold weather can definitely take a toll on firefighters and the equipment that they use. With proper pre incident planning, training and awareness, the hazards of extreme winter weather firefighting can be reduced to allow safe operations on the fireground.

JEFFREY PINDELSKI, a Contributing Editor, is a 20-year veteran and student of the fire service and is the deputy chief of operations with the Downers Grove, IL, Fire Department. Jeff is a staff instructor at the College of Du Page and has been involved with the design of several training programs dedicated to firefighter safety and survival. Jeff is the co-author of the text R.I.C.O., Rapid Intervention Company Operations. Jeff was host of the recent Preparing for Tomorrow's RIT Deployment Today podcast was a guest on the inaugural edition of the Training & Tactics Talk. View all of Jeff's articles and podcasts here. You can reach Jeff by e-mail at