firefighters winter historical photos

New York firefighters battle a blaze while coated with icicles. 1940.

Winter brings a unique set of risks and challenges for firefighters ranging from mild inconvenience to extreme danger. When temperatures reach below zero degrees, the battle is against the elements and the flames.

Everything moves slower in extreme cold. Apparatus slows down from poor road conditions, firefighters move slower on snowpack and ice and when advancing lines, and hitting fire hydrants is tougher. Water can freeze on the inside and outside of hoses, rendering them unusable. Even the hydrants can be buried under the snowdrifts.

Firefighters typically need protection from both heat and cold at the same incident. They’re exposed to the cold while responding and setting up, and then they may encounter extreme heat while fighting the fire.

Adding layers of clothing to provide extra insulation from the cold adds weight and bulk, restricting mobility and requiring additional physical effort to perform simple tasks. Firefighters who are dressed for the cold are likely to become fatigued. It’s common for a firefighter to be drenched in sweat on the inside and covered with ice on the outside.

In this article, we’ve collected a few rare historical photographs of firefighters battling fires in extreme winter conditions.

firefighters winter historical photos

Firefighters battle a blaze in Montreal. 1889.

firefighters winter historical photos

Firefighters respond to an emergency in Chicago. 1900.

firefighters winter historical photos

The remains of the Eureka building in Chicago. 1920.

firefighters winter historical photos

The burned and ice-encrusted remains of the Monticello Hotel in Norfolk, Virginia. 1918.

firefighters winter historical photos

New York firefighters help a colleague chip the ice off his uniform. 1936.

firefighters winter historical photos

The remains of the Williamson Glass Company in Boston. 1939.

firefighters winter historical photos

A firefighter on the scene of a blaze in Coney Island, New York. 1940.

firefighters winter historical photos

Firefighters battle a blaze in Albany, New York. 1940.

firefighters winter historical photos

FDNY 35th Battalion Chief William Travers warms up with some coffee at a fire in Brooklyn. 1942.

firefighters winter historical photos

Chicago firefighters respond to a fire in sub-freezing temperatures. 1958.

firefighters winter historical photos

The photo was taken in 1958.

firefighters winter historical photos

Chicago, 1958.

firefighters winter historical photos

Chicago, 1958.

firefighters winter historical photos

Chicago, 1958.

firefighters winter historical photos

Firemen try to free equipment encrusted in ice after their fight with a five-alarm fire in a vacant hotel in Brooklyn.

(Photo credit: Keystone / Gamma / Getty Images).