Firefighters Take On Heat and Cold - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Firefighters Take On Heat and Cold

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By Addie Olson


The West Des Moines Fire Department responded to a house fire at 5100 Grand Ave. Monday morning.

No one was injured in the blaze, but in wind chills nearing -20, it took hours to contain.

"You try to form a mental picture on your way, but you just never know until you get there and size it up," said Capt. Doug Richardson of the Norwalk Fire Department. "Every fire's different, it's never the same thing."

Firefighters never know exactly what to expect, but as four fire departments responded to a home that was spewing smoke this morning, they had a good idea that it was not going to be pretty.

"We kind of knew going into this today with the weather conditions out there, that it was going to be a battle," Richardson said.

A battle plagued by one freezing challenge after another.

"The cold is very, very tough," said West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell. "There's never a good time for a fire, let alone when it's cold and unfortunately right before the holidays."

Crews had to wind a hose down about a quarter mile of driveway before it even reached the home. Once they turned the water on, it had to stay that way.

"People might look at the fire truck over there that has water coming out from below it and think, 'boy, your truck leaks,' but we have to have water running because otherwise it's going to freeze up in the hose or in the pumps," Whitesell said.

The water turned to ice as it ran down the driveway. Heavy winds only fueled the fire. At one point, part of the roof collapsed, keeping crews out of the house until they could stabilize it.

"All those things are unfortunately coming together, making it very difficult for us," Whitesell said of the complications.

Crews from West Des Moines, Norwalk, Northern Warren and Clive dredged through both ash and snow, eventually getting it under control around 1:00 p.m.

"It's feast or famine in our business," said Richardson. "You certainly remember the ones in the winter time a little bit more because it takes a toll on your body a little bit more than normal."

The fire is still under investigation. West Des Moines Fire says the caller believed a wood stove in the home ignited the blaze.

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