A residential fire in the 500 block of 13th Street North, proved to be an exceptional test for Virginia, Minnesota firefighters as temperatures were in the -20 range. Light winds brought wind chill factors down to -35, which hampered firefighters efforts to battle a deeply seated house fire.
Virginia Engine One under the command of Assistant Chief Glen Burchell responded to a call of a chimney fire at the residence. Enroute they were advised by police units that it was in fact an intensely burning fire that was venting out the chimney.
Chief Burchell activated mutual aid with nearby Eveleth Fire for additional personnel and activated the cities call back procedure for second alarm units. Upon arrival units discovered a deeply seated fire that had been burning for some time and had extended fully through the houses balloon construction.
An external attack was initiated as the crews fought both the fire and the weather that threatened to freeze hose lines and equipment, and the firefighters themselves as exposed flesh at that temperature can freeze in under 10 minutes.
The intensity of the fire and the threat of collapse kept firefighters at bay for several hours as master stream appliances proved the only way to keep the water moving onto the structure.
Virginia and Eveleth heavy rescue trucks arrived to provide a brief respite to the wet, tired and frozen fireman as the event stretched into the late evening with the final units clearing after five to six hours on scene. Several pieces of equipment and houseline were damaged by the freezing temperatures.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.