Bitter Cold Makes Firefighters' Job Harder

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Flames tore through an east Topeka house Thursday night. The second house fire of the day highlighted the challenges of fighting fires in the cold and the fire dangers that rise when temperatures fall.

Below-freezing temperatures make a firefighter's job even harder.

That was the case Thursday night at 825 SE Bellview in Topeka, and Thursday afternoon in Holton.

"It really makes it tough because it's extremely cold," Holton Fire Chief Kevin Ingels told 13 News, "everything wants to freeze up, the sidewalks are getting icy. All of our equipment gets wet and gets frozen."

The cold is not only hard on the equipment, but hard on the crews.

"We have to rotate our crews, we have to make sure we have a warm environment to rehab in," Topeka Fire Investigator Micheal Martin said. "You've got water being sprayed everywhere so you're going to have ice everywhere. It's like anything, we just have to be more cautious. We're able to do our jobs, we just have to be aware of what the weather is."

"It just makes you use more energy and everybody gets tired quicker," Ingels said.

Both blazes Thursday appear connected to heating sources.

The Holton fire started in the basement near the furnace, spreading to the upper floors and doing significant damage. The family wasn't home at the time.

The home in Topeka is destroyed, fire officials say due to improper use of a kerosene heater.

Officials urge residents to check heaters to avoid disaster.

"If you're going to use any kind of heater, space heater, kerosene heater, you need to follow the guidelines and instructions," Martin said. "Use only approved methods, only approved fuels and follow exactly the manufacturer's recommendations."

The man who lived in the Bellview home self-evacuated and suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries.

Damage to his home is estimated at $1,170 and content damage estimated at $2,000.

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