Firefighters who operate in extreme weather conditions must cope with their environments as well as the flames. Weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow, cold or heat can add significantly to the danger and risk of a firefighting exercise, requiring firefighters to be careful inside and outside the fire.
Temperatures below freezing pose multiple problems for firefighters. Fire engines often move at very fast speeds, carrying large amounts of heavy equipment. Icy roads pose a serious hazard for firefighters as they move from their firehouse to the scene of the fire. In addition, water used to put out fires can rapidly freeze, creating sheets of ice that may cause firefighters to slip and fall.
Extremely dry and hot summers have an indirect risk on firefighters due to the likelihood of forest fires starting in these conditions. Areas such as Southern California and Australia have produced dangerous, wide-spreading fires that grow from small fires feeding on the hot, dry conditions. Because these fires spread so quickly, they pose a particular danger to firefighters. In June 2011, two firefighters in Florida died fighting a wildfire after an area previously cleared rapidly reignited due to the conditions.
Reduced visibility during snow and rainstorms poses a danger to firefighters, especially when working in dangerous conditions such as on the side of roads. In situations of low visibility, firefighters may risk accidents while driving in fire trucks and other vehicles. In addition, other drivers pose a serious risk for firefighters working on roads. Reduced visibility means drivers of other vehicles may not see firefighters working on the roads.
Extreme weather conditions pose a risk for firefighters because of the physical risk. The shock of rapidly changing from the intense heat of a burning building to the intense cold of freezing temperatures can shock the body and the firefighters' minds. According to the Boston Globe, health specialists suggest that working in these conditions can impair firefighters' memories and strain their hearts.
- WCYB Bristol Tennessee: Firefighters Face Many Dangers, Especially in Winter
- "Boston Globe": Firefighters Face More than Flames; John M. Guilfoil
- Fire Fighter Nation: The Dangers of Roadway Ops During Cold Weather
- MSNBC: Two Firefighters Die as Florida Battles 400 Fires
- "BBC News"; Australian Fires Toll Passes 100; February 8, 2009
- Photo Credit Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images