Cold weather affects fire school; two participants sustain minor injuriesJan 11, 2017 By Andrea Novotny, Staff Writer
Firefighters braved sub-zero temperatures to sharpen their skills Saturday and Sunday at the annual Wyoming Mid-Winter Fire School in Riverton.
Fire school chairman and Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Scott Walters said this year's event was the coldest he could remember, with temperatures as low as -20 degrees Saturday morning rising only to -2 degrees by the afternoon.
The cold accounted for one of two injuries suffered during the training this year. A fireman from the Guernsey Volunteer Fire Department was hospitalized Saturday due to early-stage hypothermia. He was able to return to class later that day, however.
A member of Riverton's search and rescue team also was hospitalized Saturday after falling about 15 feet during a high-angle rescue class.
He suffered only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later in the day as well.
"We train a lot in the fire service, and we don't like to have injuries during training, but it's sometimes impossible not to have them," Walters said. "We just try to do whatever we can to keep these people safe."
Walters said the bitter cold accounted for a variety of minor equipment malfunctions as well.
"When it's cold, things break," he said. "Diesel trucks have a hard time running, (and) it's hard to pump water when it's that cold, but we did it."
Though the weather was not ideal, the cold temperatures did give crews a chance to learn to respond in inclement weather.
"These incidents happen when it's that cold out in real life, so you have to adapt to it and figure out how to do it on those occasions too," Walters said.
This year's Mid-Winter Fire School, which is held every year in Riverton on the second weekend in January, drew about 320 first responders from more than 84 departments around Wyoming. One group came from Red Lodge, Montana.
The classes were held at four locations around town, with live, hands-on drills at the Wyoming Fire Academy and 14 different classroom sessions at Central Wyoming College.
For the third year, Guardian EMS hosted a class on expectations for first responders on the ground, and comedian Kip Attaway provided entertainment.