INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 10, 2016) – Firefighters with the Indianapolis Fire Department spent their morning battling flames and freezing temperatures on Indy’s east side.
Around midnight, fire crews responded to Lefty’s Barber Shop near 38th Street and Arlington Avenue. Frigid temperatures quickly turned the fire scene into a sheet of ice on the parking lot and fire equipment.
“Anything that’s touched by water is going to freeze automatically, so it makes working conditions very treacherous,” said IFD Batallion Chief Rita Reith. “Once we throw water on a fire, everything becomes covered in ice. So their gear, the equipment that they’re using, the hose lines that they’re trying to use.”
Reith said firefighters are trained to walk quickly, but never run at the scene of a fire. That especially holds true when firefighters are walking across sheets of ice to do their jobs.
“It just can be one of those things where people slip, they fall, they hurt their elbows, they bang their heads, and they get treated at the scene then either transported or released back to work,” Reith said.
Extreme cold weather also means extra manpower is needed at a fire scene so firefighters can be relieved and rehabilitated more often.
“This cold weather zaps your energy twice as fast as normal temperatures,” Reith said.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, but say part of the building was being renovated. The fire caused about $200,000 in damage.
The owner of Lefty’s Barbershop, Leon “Lefty” Steve Hicks, said he’s been in business at the location for 23 years. He and some of his employees were going through the burned out wreckage hours after the fire.
“We’re just glad nobody got hurt,” Hicks said. “That’s more important than anything. A building and material stuff can always be replaced.”
Hicks said fire investigators told him the fire originated in a back room of his barbershop. But the cause was not known, he said.
Hicks also expressed thanks to Indianapolis Firefighters for putting out the fire in such harsh weather conditions. He was waiting for estimates from his insurance company and plans to repair and reopen his business.
“My building will be paid off in two years, so you know, things happen and there’s nothing you can do,” Hicks said. “Just got to roll with the punches.”
About four hours later, Indianapolis Fire crews responded to a vacant home in the 6200 block of East 26th Street on the city’s east side. A police report indicated the fire was being investigated as a possible arson.
Firefighters dealt with the same icy conditions as they threw water on the fire.
After each fire was out, IFD contacted the Indianapolis Department of Public Works to send a salt truck to each location.
“IFD gets in touch with our dispatch, and then we go ahead and activate those trucks to go out there and take care of any emergency hot spots,” said DPW spokesperson Jennifer Hashem.
DPW trucks often treat city streets after Indianapolis Firefighters finish putting out a fire in sub-freezing temperatures. The DPW trucks treat any affected streets, but do not treat private property like parking lots and sidewalks.