Winter Fire Dangers For Firefighters And Homeowners

Winter Fire Dangers For Firefighters And Homeowners

Tuesday, 09 January 2024 14:56

Firefighters and paramedics work each day to keep our communities safe. Every time they respond to a call, whether a wildfire raging in a remote mountain range, an apartment complex fire, or a vehicle accident, they can immediately place themselves in a dangerous situation.

Some of the situations are very evident, like rush hour traffic on a major interstate near the scene of a wreck or an approaching wildfire that threatens to overtake the fire engine. However, there are many more threats everywhere that are sometimes not readily discernible, such as a rattlesnake near the fireline, a hornet's nest, a downed electric pole, or hazardous chemicals smoldering in a back room.

During the winter, additional challenges and safety issues can add to the complexity of any incident, and firefighters must maintain their situational awareness to fully mitigate the added problems of operating during winter conditions. The professionals at StreetWise work with firefighters to assist them in doing their jobs during the winter and provide software applications that can help save lives

Also, homeowners can experience fire dangers that are less evident during other seasons. This article will discuss some winter fire dangers to firefighters and homeowners.

Fire Dangers Firefighters Face In The Winter

Fire operations during the winter add a level of complexity unique to wintertime conditions, and firefighters must take mitigation actions before, during, and after an incident. Here is a list of standard mitigation procedures you can do at your station to lower the dangers to firefighters during the winter.

1) General Operations

  • Incident Management: When it’s cold, consider planning for personnel to establish and staff a Rehab Center upon arrival to a scene where firefighters can stay out of the weather during extended incidents.
  • Emergency Response: Drivers must be especially aware of changing conditions when patchy ice is present. The area around the station may be dry, but road conditions can change en route. Set engine retarders and traction controls as conditions dictate.
  • Staging: When possible, avoid staging over snow or ice. Consider staging away from surrounding conditions that could cause other vehicles to lose control and run into personnel or apparatus.

2) Fire Prevention

  • Fire Watch Services: Consider response times under adverse weather conditions when deciding if a fire watch is required and if the agency should take control of the fire watch.

3) Training

  • Driver/Operator Training: Drivers/operators should review all portions of their cold weather response training and employ this training when responding. Before an actual call for service, consider having new drivers/operators take out the equipment to become familiar with how it drives and reacts under adverse conditions such as snow or ice.

4) Safety

  • Illness and Injury Prevention Program: Consider having the Health and Safety Officer include cold weather operations safety as part of new member orientation or scheduled safety meetings. Or, distribute a cold weather safety advisory as the weather begins to turn.
  • Vehicle Backing: Personnel involved in backing operations can slip and fall on ice or snow. Remind drivers to stop immediately if they lose sight of spotters and remain stopped until visual contact is re-established.
  • Fire Station Safety: Be mindful of wet areas in the station and snow or ice present on aprons and outdoor walkways. After the engine and PPE are hosed down, skim wet areas and consider using fans or floor dryers to minimize additional hazards.
  • Reporting for Duty/Emergency Recall: Remind personnel of their duty to report, regardless of weather conditions and the possibility of emergency recall. Personnel should keep their vehicles ready for response. If they may not be able to report for duty or respond to an emergency recall, they should consider staying closer to the station or at the station itself.

Fire Dangers To Landowners During The Winter

Not only are there fire dangers to firefighters, but there are also increased fire dangers to homeowners during the winter. Here are a few of the most dangerous winter fire dangers to homeowners.

1) Heating

Heating is a leading cause of US home fires and home fire injuries and the third leading cause of home fire deaths. December, January, and February are the peak months for heating fires. Space heaters are the type of equipment most often involved in home heating equipment fires, accounting for one-third of the fires, as well as the vast majority of deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment.

2) Candle Fires

Candle fires peak in December and January, with 11 percent of total fires each month. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires. Each year between 2015 and 2019, an average of 7,400 home candle fires were reported each year.

3) Carbon Monoxide

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, propane, etc., do not burn completely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of CO. Carbon monoxide incidents are more common during the winter months and in residential properties. 

4) Winter Storms

Most of the U.S. is at risk for winter storms, which can cause dangerous and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Blinding wind-driven snow, extreme cold, icy road conditions, downed trees, and power lines can all wreak havoc on our daily schedules. Home fires occur more in the winter than in any other season, and heating equipment is involved in one of every six reported home fires and one in every five home fire deaths.

5) Portable Generators

Portable generators are useful during power outages. However, many homeowners are unaware that the improper use of portable generators can be risky. The most common dangers of portable generators are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, electrical shock or electrocution, and fire hazards. 

StreetWise® Provides Software to Improve the Safety of Firefighter Crews

StreetWise is a public safety information services company in Terrell, North Carolina. StreetWise is an elite group of progressive, like-minded investors, managers, technical developers, and advisors that form the parent company, Hangar 14 Solutions, LLC.

Our close and ongoing career experience with public safety led to the development of this project concept. Hangar 14 Solutions has identified the gap in getting critical response information into the hands of emergency personnel.

StreetWise can assist you with software and consulting services that make your job safer in all seasons, including winter. If you want more information on the services we offer, contact us today!