The extreme cold was working against the firefighters at the Ziegenfelder plant in East Wheeling, every step of the way.
As the wind whipped the thick clouds of smoke through the area, it was hard to see, breathe, walk and stay upright — it was cold enough to take your breath away.
Several firefighters got up in a bucket at the top of Martins Ferry’s tall ladder truck. One firefighter could be seen climbing the ladder, stopping periodically to scrape the ice off his boots and off the rungs of the ladder.
The smoke would come billowing down in waves — and every step they took, whether on the ground or high above the building, was dangerous.
“Breathing the cold air and breathing smoke that is in the air is not a good mixture at all,” said Philip Stahl, public information officer for Wheeling Police and Fire departments. “So for the general public who doesn’t have a respirator mask on right now, they need to stay away from this situation and let the firefighters handle it.”
“These guys get wet and the trucks freeze up in this kind of weather,” recalled Joe Dalton of Martins Ferry, a retired firefighter. “And the water–it’s really bad on a day like this, I mean bad on everybody.”
The firefighter scaling the slippery ladder made it to the bucket at the top, but every drop of water that fell was freezing instantly to every surface.
Hats off to these first responders who answered the call for hours in treacherous conditions.