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Fire and Ice: First Responders up Against Winter

SHENANDOAH, Pa. — The smoldering warehouse along Lloyd Street is still adorned with icicles after a fire tore through the building Friday. Frank Zangari, ...

SHENANDOAH, Pa. -- The smoldering warehouse along Lloyd Street is still adorned with icicles after a fire tore through the building Friday.

Frank Zangari, president of Schuylkill County Fire Chiefs, said first responders' gear was covered with ice during the fire.

"So you're totally covered with ice, your mustache has ice in it, your eyebrows," Zangari explained. "Visibility becomes a problem."

Zangari said fighting the Lloyd Street fire was already a grueling task with some of the worst smoke conditions he's ever witnessed but the weather caused them many more setbacks.

Sleet and freezing rain made it nearly impossible to run their command post.

"We couldn't even document on the whiteboards," he said. "Who was where, who was doing what. What tanker or apparatus was coming in, where our medic units were."

Many first responders were slipping and falling on the ice were grateful that no major injuries were reported.

"It's icy conditions, you get the overspray from the hoses," said Pottsville Fire Chief James Misstishin. "There's a lot of hats off to a lot of people. There are residents that were putting cat litter out so the firefighters wouldn't fall. Firefighters put floor dry out to try to keep the ground from slipping and falling."

With several months of winter left on the horizon, first responders, including paramedic Daniel Kleeman, say maintaining snow and ice on your property isn't only for your convenience but it's important for their safety.

"Around here we have a lot of stairwells to get up to the front doors of residences and they could be slippery for us carrying patients down the steps if they're snow-covered and or ice-covered," Kleeman said.

The Friday fire had an impressive turnout of volunteer firefighters that rotated and worked in shifts. Zangari says fighting fires in extreme cold conditions is even harder in areas where manpower is a problem.

"You're out there for six hours running a command post; we're not dragging hose, we're running the command," he said. "And it's six hours? You feel like you're out there."

While he acknowledges numbers are dwindling across the commonwealth Zangair says Schuylkill County is lucky to have more than 900 volunteers. He says at least 150 men and women fought Friday's fire.