INDIANAPOLIS - Although the cold weather shut down the City of Indianapolis on Tuesday, the city’s emergency responders couldn’t take the day off.
No matter the conditions or the challenges, officials with the Indianapolis Fire Department have answered every call in the coldest month in nearly four decades.
The department has relaxed the uniform standard, urging firefighters to layer up and dress in whatever keeps them warm and safe. Still, subfreezing and subzero temperatures make for a very humbling experience.
"These guys get out of a fire and they're already wearing 60 pounds of gear and they're soaking wet and they ultimately become ice cubes. You can literally go like that and ice falls off," engineer Matt Hahn said.
The firefighters at IFD Station 24 near 38th Street and Emerson Avenue respond to, on average, more than 3,000 emergency calls per year, making it one of the top five busiest houses in the city.
The cold weather makes a challenging job even more difficult, but it makes firefighters more determined.
"This is what we do every day. The weather doesn't affect what we do. We're still going to respond. We're still going to do our job and we're going to stay out there as long as it takes," IFD Capt. Rita Reith said.
IFD has stopped short of calling for a modified response, a procedure which calls for a single piece of equipment to check out alarm calls that may not rise to the level of a true emergency. In the latest polar vortex, sometimes the greatest challenge is not a structure fire, but getting there.
"This is a difficult, this is a big responsibility. This bus doesn't stop on a dime. I've got four guys with families and we're going to get to the emergency where somebody is in need of us," Hahn said.
Despite the latest cold snap, fire officials said the calls for service have remained somewhat normal.
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