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Winnipeg firefighters battling flames, cold weather simultaneously

Winnipeg firefighters are often active in extreme weather. Sam Thompson / Global News

The bitterly cold weather hitting southern Manitoba this week can be especially hard for those working outdoors — especially for firefighters, who are battling both flames and cold simultaneously.

Winnipeg fire crews have been busy battling blazes in extreme conditions — with the wind chill factor making it feel colder than -40 — including a pair on Wednesday night.

“Fires are difficult at the best of times,” fire platoon chief Gordon Cannell told Global News.

“Water freezes in temperatures like this, but sometimes we’ve encountered frozen hydrants, and that delays the opportunity to get water on a fire quickly.

“Machinery doesn’t operate as well in 30-40 below weather as it would in normal temperatures that you would find throughout the year. It’s hard on the crews as well.”

Read more: Cold weather here for ‘long haul’ but heavy Manitoba snow has some positives, climatologist says

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Cannell said older firefighting apparatus, without modern heating equipment inside, can face freezing if it’s outside too long, and the crews themselves are regularly rotated in and out.

“It’s department policy that after you’re done your second tank on your self-contained breathing apparatus, we try to get the crews rotated out and then get a fresh crew in.

“What adds to the issue is if you’ve got simultaneous incidents going on. It can be taxing.”

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