LA CROSSE, Wisconsin(WXOW) – Tuesday's fire on La Crosse's 4th St. and Monday's garage fire in Onalaska serve as sobering examples of a fire department's duty to respond to a scene regardless of weather conditions.
Temperatures in the Coulee Region this week have been in the single digits – at some points dipping below zero degrees Fahrenheit.
"We're lucky were able to contain it very quickly so we weren't there very long," said La Crosse Division Chief Jeff Murphy of the Tuesday apartment fire.
"It's always really miserable when it gets this cold," he said.
Murphy added the biggest challenge to firefighters on a cold day is water, the most vital of weapons in battling a blaze, freezing over.
"When it gets cold, if we have hose lines that we're using, we leave them open a little bit," Murphy said, "much like you would your faucet if you have a faucet at home that's prone to freezing."
"We also have to keep the water pumps on the apparatus moving so they don't freeze up," he said.
Murphy also said freezing water on firefighters' gloves can make it difficult for them to grip a hose or other essential tools.
Frozen water on the ground can make the scene dangerous and slippery.
Murphy said firefighters typically carry salt with them to a scene in order to melt ice on the ground.
The La Crosse Fire Department also brings a bus to the scene. The bus gives those evacuated due to a fire, whether for a short time or long-term, a place to get out of the extreme cold.
The bus is also part of standard protocol on very hot days.
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