Calgary

How does the water not freeze? Calgary firefighting behind the scenes

As Calgary firefighters worked for hours trying to bring the Enoch Sales house fire under control Saturday, frigid temperatures and a wind chill making it feel closer to –40 complicated their efforts.

'Our preparation starts before we even leave the fire station,' CFD spokesperson Carol Henke reveals

Calgary firefighters use antifreeze in the port caps and keep the water constantly moving, to avoid it freezing. (David Bell/CBC)

As Calgary firefighters worked for hours trying to bring the Enoch Sales house fire under control Saturday, frigid temperatures and a wind chill making it feel closer to –40 complicated their efforts.

How does the water not freeze? How do the crews stay mobile?

The Homestretch wanted to know and it's Calgary Fire Department spokesperson Carol Henke to the rescue.

"The cold presents some challenges but our department has many, many years of fighting fires and responding to all sorts of incidents in this cold," Henke said.

"Our preparation starts before we even leave the fire station."

Rotating crews out becomes more important on days like last Saturday. (David Bell/CBC)

They prevent water from freezing in a couple of ways.

"We prepare by spraying antifreeze into the port caps so they can be easily opened and connected to hoses," she said.

"At any call we attend, we put our trucks into pump gear to circulate the water, because we carry close to 1,900 litres of water on our fire engines."

And then it's just a matter of keeping things moving.

"We never shut off the hoses completely, the nozzles. When we are not actively using the hoses, we can them cracked open so there is water still running but not at a high level."

On larger incidents, a safety team with two to four firefighters is set up to watch crews and look for potential problems. (David Bell/CBC)

But what about the inevitable ice?

"All of our boots are special firefighting boots that have steel-toes, steel-schanks and are very grippy. For certain incidents we might ask the city to bring in a sander to help mitigate that icy street," Henke said.

Rotating crews out becomes more important on days like last Saturday, and raising the alarm can help do that.

"We bring in additional crews because we never want to interrupt our firefighting efforts. We up it from a second to a third alarm, for example. That brings in additional resources so we can rotate the crews through and provide rehab to those crews, allow them to warm up, rehydrate, change out gear if needed."

Enoch Sales house fire 0:51

And monitoring firefighters becomes a job in itself.

"All of our work is teamwork. You keep an eye on each other. At all larger incidents, we also have a safety team of two to four firefighters. They are the second set of eyes on the incident. They are looking for issues and concerns and focus on the safety of the crews and plan for any potential rescue efforts if something goes sideways," Henke said.

"We also have our fire rescue paramedics that go to all significant events."

With files from The Homestretch

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