BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Fire Department (FCFD) has responded to numerous home and brush fires in the past week. The unusual uptake in reports of fire incidents is due in part to the frigid temperatures that have hit our area.
“Any time you have cold weather you have a potential for an increase in fire-related calls,” Fannin County Fire and Rescue Chief Larry Thomas explained. “Most of these are because of the need to provide extra heat to homes.”
FCFD was called out to one such home fire on Monday, Jan. 1. A 911 call was made in the late morning hours, reporting a fire at 4430 Ada Street. Emergency crews were dispatched and arrived on the scene minutes later.
“They (the home owners) weren’t home at the time of the fire, but when they did return, they saw smoke and they called 911,” Thomas recalled the events of that day.
The home fire led to Ada Street being closed near the Curtis Switch Road intersection for approximately four hours. Fannin County Sheriff’s Office was on the scene to help with the road closure and to redirect traffic.
Fannin County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) set up on the property to render aid to the firemen battling the blaze.
“There really are a lot of people I would like to thank,” Thomas said of the effort put forth. “Everyone came together.”
Fannin County Emergency Management Agency made the following post on their Facebook page following the events of that day:
Thomas also noted that family members of the home owners, as well as the home owners themselves, were mindful of the efforts being put forth by FCFD and displayed continued kindness throughout the ordeal, even offering to deliver meals to the response teams that were on the scene.
Thomas commented on the conditions of the day and how it affects members of his department: “Fighting fires in cold weather is a lot different. It causes a whole new set of problems.”
Freezing temperatures do pose a new series of threats and difficulties beyond the dangers normally faced when emergency teams respond to calls of this nature. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is designed to protect the wearer from heat of a fire, but only has limited insulation for cold temperatures.
Firefighters face an increased risk of hypothermia and frostbite when battling flames in freezing conditions. Also, fluctuating from extreme heat to extreme cold increases fatigue and exhaustion.
CERT placed a tent on the property of the Ada Street fire to help combat these conditions. Firefighters were monitored by fellow emergency responders and took breaks in the CERT tent to warm up, get re-hydrated, and dry wet clothing.
“Beyond personal safety, we also have to closely monitor our equipment during this weather,” Thomas spoke of the obstacles faced during cold weather.
Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses (SCBA) worn by firefighters have a high risk of freezing and icing over when temperatures are below freezing. Water from hoses can also freeze causing ice patches on the ground and increasing the risk of structural collapse due to the added weight of the ice.
Fannin County Public Works department responded to the scene as well as to clear and salt Ada Street when ice began to form from the water run off.
“It really was a group effort, and I would like to give my guys some recognition. It is never an easy job, but in this weather, it is even more difficult, and they are working really hard,” Thomas said of crews working the scene of the Ada Street fire.
Thomas would like to remind everyone of some winter weather fire safety and prevention tips:
1. Keep portable generators outside, away from windows, and as far away as possible from your home;
2. Test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month;
3. Have a qualified professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year;
4. Store cooled ashes in a tightly covered metal container, and keep outside at least 10 feet from your home and any nearby buildings; and
5. Plug only one heat producing appliance (such as a space heater) into an electrical outlet at a time.
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