How firefighters dress for the bitter cold

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — When the alarm goes off, firefighters have to be ready for the any conditions — including the weather.

“Start out with my hood,” Kentwood fire fighter Nick Harkes explained as he demonstrated the gear  firefighters wear. “Our pants have two different layers.”

Then there’s his heavy, fireproof coat.

“It’s good for keeping the heat out, but also keeping the cold out,” Harkes said. “Right now, I’ve got my sweatshirt on, too, which is really good for being outside.”

Harkes has the dress code down pat from head to toe.

In addition to fire and the other hazards firefighters encounter, frostbite is a big concern during this extreme winter weather.

“By the time we put all our gear on, there’s no skin exposed at all,” Harkes said.

How firefighters gear up show just how dangerous this weather can be for you if you’re not prepared.

A temperature of 0 Fahrenheit and a 15 mph wind produces a 19 below wind chill.

In these extreme temperatures,  frostbite can set in in as little as 10 minutes.

In the case of firefighters, water — one of the main tools of their trade — can add to the danger. It cakes their equipment and creates slip and fall hazards.

And while a fire can keep them warm, the job involves much more than that.

“We’ll be outside for hour, half-hour at a time trying to maybe get someone out of a car or something like that,” Harkes said. “That time, being out there in the cold, could be dangerous.”



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