Winnipeg’s firefighters are putting in overtime helping the City of Winnipeg manage a massive frozen pipe problem.

More than 800 homes across Winnipeg have had their taps run dry after their pipes froze in recent weeks. An especially bitter winter has seen the ground freeze to deep levels, causing problems everywhere from fire stations to businesses to homes.

On Saturday afternoon, officials said almost 5,000 properties were identified as being at risk of their pipes freezing.

Now, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has been tasked with delivering letters to warn homeowners their pipes might freeze. Firefighters are also delivering reusable 20-litre jugs filled with potable water.

About 200 deliveries were scheduled on Saturday, with more planned for Sunday.

“We believe this is an emergency, especially when we go to homes, and we see people who have not had water for three or four days,” said Alex Forrest, the head of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg. “I believe it is a good use of firefighting services.”

On Saturday night, 2,500 letters were delivered to homes at risk, with another 1,500 delivered Sunday morning.

About 30 firefighters were brought in for overtime last night and this morning — adding to the mounting cost of managing the freezing pipe ordeal.

City officials fear the problem could last into May and possibly even June.

Forrest said the firefighters’ work isn’t affecting emergencies, but the current system isn’t sustainable.

“The guys are literally going from fires to delivering water to going to EMS calls. It’s not affecting service, but there’s literally no downtime,” he said.

Forrest said he hopes people who are able-bodied will come pick up the water themselves so firefighters can focus on delivering it to seniors and people with mobility issues.