Austin firefighters battle not just fire, but ice - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Kerry Klatt

Austin firefighters battle not just fire, but ice

AUSTIN, MN (FOX 47) -- Fire crews from the Austin area spent hours in the cold Thursday night battling the blaze that destroyed four businesses in downtown Austin.

Firefighters fought the flames despite the sub-zero temperatures that froze some of their equipment.

Crews had to keep water flowing through the hoses at all times, and they had to work in shifts to keep from getting frost bite.

Firefighters spent Thursday night battling the blaze and battling the cold.

The fire broke out on one of the coldest days this winter, and now the scene is a frozen wreckage - going from fire to ice.

The frigid temperatures forced crews to work in shifts, and handle their equipment differently.

Austin Fire Commander Brian Lovik says his crews were prepared for the extreme cold.

Lovik says, "You gotta watch out for hoses so they don't freeze, and you've got to maintain the water flow on them.  A lot of your equipment will get cold and frozen up so after the fire you've got to get them back to the station, and warm them up before you open up the drains."

Lovik says the gear used in the hot summer months is the same gear used in the winter.

A big concern Thursday night was the slip and fall factor. Water from the hoses froze not only the building, but the ground the firefighters had to walk on.

Only one injury was reported from someone falling.

Lovic compares the gear to an oven mitt, saying it has to withstand any kind of temperature, keeping the firefighters safe in the extreme hot and the extreme cold.

The ice also complicates State Fire Marshal Steve Wolf's investigation.

He, along with insurance adjustors, will not be able to start sorting through the debris until Tuesday, to help determine a cause.

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