The Face of a Hero: Wisconsin Fire Chief Thrashes House Fire in -50F Winds

February 22, 2019 Updated: February 22, 2019

We’ve all seen the news: the midwest is being ravaged by record-breaking winter storms. The “polar vortex” has had devastating effects on thousands of Americans as freezing conditions have imprisoned many people inside their own homes.

Many schools, stores, and official buildings have closed. But for the country’s first responders, it’s a normal week on the job.

In Wisconsin, the wind chill dropped to a staggering -50 degrees Fahrenheit (approx. -45 degrees Celsius), a temperature that can induce frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes.

Which is why one photo of a fire chief working in these conditions has captured the attention of the country. America’s first responders have battled tirelessly to keep the rest of us safe during these desperate times, and the severity of the task at hand can be seen on all of their faces.

Fire Chief Mitch Hansen, of Cameron, Wisconsin, is one such man. As if facing the bitter cold weren’t enough, Fire Chief Hansen also had to work under impaired conditions: the freezing weather has meant that much of the fire department’s equipment is not running at full capacity. Or at all.

On Jan. 30, Hansen and the first response fire team responded to a call about a house fire. It was thought that a space heater started the fire, proving that yet another hazard of the freezing weather is that people are using more heating equipment in their homes. More fire hazards means, sadly, more fires.

Michael Judy 发布于 2019年1月30日周三

Hansen has been working with the fire department in Wisconsin for 43 years, but has never experienced fire-fighting in temperatures this extreme before.

At the scene, the team set to work in their usual way, but the back spray from the fire hose caused a bizarre phenomenon: the spray turned to frost and ice in the air, covered Hansen from head to toe, and left him with frozen eyelids, a frost-covered beard, and his protective clothing covered in a thin layer of ice.

Photo courtesy of Bimbo Gifford

This frosty coating happened as Hansen was battling to put out the fire, and neither him nor his team noticed that bizarre effect of the frozen back spray until the danger was over. The home was sadly lost, but its inhabitants escaped without harm.

Assistant Chief Bimbo Gifford took a picture of his colleague and posted it online. The extraordinary image went viral.

“The heat of the moment and the adrenaline rush keeps you warm while you’re doing it,” explained Hansen, talking to WQOW. “As soon as you start slowing down and getting done, then that’s when the reality and the cold sets in.”

Michael Judy 发布于 2019年1月30日周三

The photo perfectly depicts Chief Hansen as he described himself: “frozen stiff.”

The camaraderie of the fire department first-response team keeps morale high during times like these. Speaking to CNN, Chief Gifford described his team: “We’re a small team of volunteers but we’re careful and trained.”

Saluting America’s firefighters battling blazes in frigid conditions

CALL OF DUTY: Across the country, America’s firefighters are battling blazes in arctic conditions, including Chief Mitch Hansen in Cameron, Wisconsin, seen encased in ice as he fought a fire in subzero wind chills. David Muir reports. #AmericaStrong

ABC World News Tonight with David Muir 发布于 2019年1月31日周四

There will be no “snow days” for the country’s first responders. The news may issue warnings and the vast majority of folk in the country’s coldest regions will be bundled up tight, away from the biting cold. But for Hansen, Gifford, and the Cameron fire department, not to mention first responders countrywide, they will always be where the help is needed.

Have you been affected by the bitter cold this winter? Share this article with family and friends and show your support for the country’s tireless first responders!