Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said Friday was the first time in his 21-year career he has seen frozen fire hydrants.
Firefighters were called to a blaze at an empty rental house in the 8000 block of Skitts Mountain Road in North Hall about 4 a.m., when it was 13 degrees outside with a wind chill of 2.
Firefighters tried two fire hydrants before finding one on Belton Bridge Road that worked, using a White County tanker to shuttle the water.
There’s not much that can be done to avoid the problem, Cagle said.
The hydrants are serviced annually and Gainesville Public Utilities performs maintenance. The frozen hydrants were fixed by 11 a.m.
“When it is in the single digits, this may just happen from time to time,” he said.
The 1,500-square-foot was destroyed, and a cause and estimate on damage aren’t yet available. Cagle noted the outcome would have been the same even with working hydrants because the house was fully involved when firefighters arrived.
“Once firefighters knew the house was a total loss; their attention was to cool down the propane tank next to the house to prevent it from exploding,” Cagle said.
Firefighters spent about 2.5 hours in the frigid weather, but Cagle said their gear protects them from the cold. Ice can form on the helmets and other gear, though, making it heavier.
“When it’s that cold and you get wet like we do ... that kind of cold just hurts,” Cagle said, adding that it can slow them down.
The ice in particular can slow things down, making the scene dangerous.
“Although we were blessed to have no injuries this morning, I have seen firefighters fall before, myself included,” he said. “And when you fall on ice wearing an air pack ... that can lead to an injury.”
Staying in shape can help them stand up to the brutal conditions, he added.