Firefighters at Burlington factory fire dealing with bitter cold

CREATED Jan 31, 2013

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BURLINGTON - The weather caused major problems for firefighters, not only with their equipment, hey had to work in shifts to deal with the bitter cold.

More photos of the fire

The Burlington fire chief says they immediately called for help from other fire departments, not only because of the size of the building with this fire, but because of the freezing conditions firefighters have to work in.

Fighting a fire when it's this cold out is tough, really tough.

“Conditions are terrible when it gets like this,” said Joseph Robbins with Williams Bay Fire Department.

Firefighters, like Robbins, know it all too well.

“[You’ve] got to keep the trucks warm, keeping the guys warm, so
water doesn't freeze,” Robbins said when asked how best to fight a fire in the cold.

Firefighters have been pouring water on the Echo Lake Foods fire all night, using freezing water from the nearby lake. Robbins said fighting a fire like this takes a toll.

“It gets pretty fatiguing, you know, with the water,” Robbins said.

Firefighters have been coming into the Civic Center to take refuge from the cold since this fire started.

“You need to warm up, drink coffee,” he said. “After a certain point just gotta get something warm.”

The cold temperatures are one reason why there's been a big response – at one time, 80 fire departments were helping with the massive blaze.
“We have rotated the crews and we have rotated equipment - that's why we have a large number departments have been called in,” said Fire Chief Dick Lodle with the Burlington Fire Department.

Robbins and his company got the call at 4 a.m. Thursday morning.

“That’s what were waiting here for to swap out and give the guys a break,” said Robbins.

Robbins said once firefighters have been rotated out they are allowed to go home.