MASON CITY, Iowa – “It’s a brutally cold environment and you get wet and of course that evaporates. Water evaporates temperature from your body 25 times faster than air,” said Mason City Fire Department Captain Jack Odegaard.
Capt. Odegaard was one of the many firefighters on scene Tuesday morning, dealing with actual temperatures near 10-below which he says is always cause for concern.
“It’s something we always concern ourselves with and then we rotate our guys in and out,” said Capt. Odegaard. “A lot of times they have to go in and if they get really wet. We’ll send them into a place to get warmed up and then they’ll come back.”
Surprisingly, firefighters don’t layer-up as much as you would think.
“You can wear a sweatshirt under your gear and stuff like that,” said Josh Deverell, Firefighter and Paramedic. “Otherwise it’s bringing extras – extra gloves and extra hoods. That way if you do get water on them and they start freezing, you can switch them out.”
But the freezing water isn’t just tough on the men wearing boots and bunker gear.
“On this one we drove out to the fire which was on North Federal (Avenue). By the time we got there, one of the valves on this rig got stuck shut,” said Odegaard. “A lot of times we run into where the water will freeze right out of the nozzle. So one of the things we do is we’ll crack the bail or keep the nozzle open – it’s dribbling a little bit of water but we do that so it doesn’t freeze up.”
Captain Odegaard also encourages everyone do dress in layers with the extremely cold temperatures this week in order to avoid serious frostbite.