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Subzero temps pose challenges for Johnston firefighters

Local 5 spent the morning with firefighters from the Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department to learn about the unique challenges facing firefighters.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — Simon Carl, firefighter with the Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Departement is like a lot of us when it come to the weather Iowa has seen.

"I'm not much of a fan of the cold myself," said Carl.

But when an emergency call comes in, Carl rushes to the scene.

"Obviously, being out in the cold makes everything more difficult," he said.

He says preparation is key to making sure his team can be safe and effective in frigid conditions.  

"We have the pants and the boots as well.  We have gloves.  We have a helmet.  We have the hood that goes over our heads to protect our ears.  We have all the equipment necessary," said Carl.

And there's less obvious things--like keeping the fire trucks and fire engines as dry as possible.

"If it’s this cold out...there’s obvious wind chill, low temps--it can literally freeze the doors shut," he warned.

Once firefighters are out on a call, the challenges can start to mount.

"It makes it very difficult when you're out in it for an extended period of time to do some fine tune skills or even something as simple as gripping onto a door handle or pulling something off the rig," he said.

When it drops below zero, water can quickly freeze.  For example, water droplets coming out of a fire hose can almost immediately turn to ice.  That's why firefighters use special nozzles to make sure water comes out as a steady stream.

But once that water hits the ground, it can eventually still freeze. 

"We just have to be cognizant that there will be ice everywhere," Carl said.

But every so often, Carl says he experiences moments that make things a little easier.

"Some of the best things that I've experienced are different citizens that see us working--some of them have provided things like food, warm place to be while we're resting.  Other people have provided socks.  Dry clothing has been awesome.  This is by no means a call to say, "Hey, do these things for us," but those are some of the most helpful things sometimes," Carl said.

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