Fire departments are busy battling fires this winter

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Andrea Anderson
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CLINTON--Tuesday was another bitterly cold morning and other winter fire for Clinton firefighters to battle.

The shed fire at 8601 E. Larsen Road in the town of Bradford was the third cold-weather fire in eight days for the fire department.

Clinton firefighters responded to two fires Jan. 21--a shed fire at 12701 E. Stateline Road in the town of Clinton and a house fire at 111 South St. in Sharon.

The high temperature Jan. 21 was 6 degrees.

The mercury was stuck below zero Tuesday morning.

The Clinton department has been increasingly busy as the temperatures have decreased, said Larry London, deputy fire chief.

"I'm not really sure why that is," London said Tuesday after returning from the machine shed fire. "I don't know if the cold puts more stress on the heating systems or not."

Tim O'Neill, Delavan Fire Department fire chief, said he didn't have statistics, but sees a correlation between cold weather and more fires.

“There are always more fires in winter time, but I think it is not as pronounced as 20 years ago,” O'Neill said.

He credits the improvement to automatic alarms, sprinklers and smoke detectors.

O'Neill suspects cold weather results in more fires because people are more likely to be using space heaters, candles and heat lamps, which can start fires, and because extended cold spells stress heating and ventilation systems.

“When you get three, four, five days and it doesn't get much above zero, these systems are starting to be taxed by the cold,” O'Neill said.

The cold also makes it more difficult to fight fires.

Personnel from 16 fire departments were dispatched to the machine shed fire Tuesday morning so crew members could rotate out and get warm, said Deputy Fire Chief Larry London of the Clinton Fire Department.

“It was really cold,” London said. “We also were lucky that the county sent in a salt truck so we could salt down the yard and keep from slipping.”

Edgerton Fire Chief Brian Demrow said extreme weather mandates extra precautions.

“You want to rotate the manpower so everybody stays safe,” Demrow said.

Extra staff and equipment help counter the difficulties that come with frigid weather, such as frozen hoses, firefighters slipping on ice, and apparatus breaking down.

“In extreme weather, it's always better to have too many people and too much equipment because things have a way of breaking,” London said.

Delavan firefighters responded to a Dec. 6 weather-related fire at 125 North 4th St. The home, converted into a two-unit apartment, caught on fire at 9:15 p.m. 

The cause remains under investigation, but O'Neill said he suspects “taxing of the heating system” played a part. The property owner was attempting to heat up the apartment and had blown electrical circuits several times before the fire, O'Neill said.

To avoid winter fires, O'Neill suggests building owners:

-- Have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems checked annually and keep a close watch on the systems during severe cold.

-- Install carbon monoxide detectors.

-- Let professionals thaw frozen pipes.

Gazette reporter Jim Leute contributed to this article.

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