Union firefighters responded to 21 incidents, including 18 weather-related calls, during a three-day period following Sunday’s snowstorm.
Fire Chief Russ Hamilton described the period between Sunday, Jan. 5, and Tuesday, Jan. 7, as a “72-hour operation period.”
He said that each of the three firehouses were manned during the entire period.
“We had the fire stations staffed in preparation of weather-related incidents and two of them were staffed with volunteers,” Hamilton said. “Having volunteers already at the station was a big plus because weather can delay response.
“My hat is off to volunteers for spending hours and hours at the station,” he added. “The volunteers are an asset to the community.”
There are adjustments the district must make when responding to calls in this much snow, Hamilton said.
“All of our trucks are equipped with chains,” he said. “When we have this kind of weather we immediately put chains down — everything is just a total slow go.”
Hamilton said cold-related calls included broken water pipes at homes and businesses.
“Naturally the cold weather created a lot of water leaks,” he said.
According to Hamilton, the damage was relatively minor.
“Naturally, to the homeowner or business owner it is bad, but not compared to what we have seen in the past,” he said. “There was not any major damage to the buildings.”
Fire crews also responded to flue fires during that time period, but those were “minor.”
“We consider those weather related,” Hamilton said. “When it is very cold, people stoke fireplaces more. If the flues aren’t capable of taking the extra heat it causes a problem.”
Many of the calls were to aid the Union Ambulance District, according to Hamilton.
“We assisted the ambulance getting patients out of homes through snow,” he said. “There were a couple of occasions we had to plow the driveway so the ambulance could get in.
“We also helped get patients onto stretchers and into the ambulance,” Hamilton added.
During winter weather a district support vehicle with a snowplow attached responds to every fire call.
Hamilton explained that the snowplow is used to clear the station lots to allow for quick response by larger district vehicles.
The plow trucks also are used to plow snow for better access to homes, but the plows often are the only vehicles that can reach some homes with long, steep driveways,
“When snowplow and pumper tucks arrive at the scene (firefighters) make an estimation of what equipment they need and put it in the snowplow truck, and drive down long narrow driveways,” Hamilton said. “Luckily the calls we had were minimal and we were able to handle them with hand tools.”
The district also provided mutual aid at three house fire scenes, in the Boles, St. Clair and Gerald-Rosebud fire districts.
The assistance to Gerald-Rosebud Fire District was to a home in Gasconade County.
Union fire crews also were stationed in firehouses in three other districts to assist with emergencies.
Hamilton said mutual aid can be key in freezing temperatures.
“Any time you get into those weather conditions, water can freeze before we get it to a fire,” he said. “Most of the challenges to those types of calls is getting access to the home — then getting equipment to operate properly because of freezing conditions cause extra delays.”