Firefighters battle flames, cold weather


DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — Decatur firefighter Brandon Mandernach fights fire in ice.

A former paramedic, helping people has always been his passion. But when temperatures dive below zero, that passion has to burn even brighter.

“Say [there’s] a vehicle accident,” he said. “Are there small children involved? Are they able to stay warm?”

That’s just the beginning of Mandernach’s concerns. Firefighters in central Illinois also have to worry about keeping warm in the snow and cool in the flames.

“I’m sure everybody has their own way of doing it,” said fellow firefighter Craig Stevens. “I keep hand warmers, extra hats [and] extra socks.”

“We’ll rotate through,” Mandernach said. “If we’re extra cold, we’ll hop in the cab of the truck and get the heat for a little while.”

But this is all routine for Decatur firefighters — because they have done it all before.

“Two to three years ago, 2nd battalion, the shift before us, had an overnight fire,” said Lt. Neil Elder. “Temperatures were subzero and…they were completely covered [in] ice. You break it and you can move and once you get back, you put your gear under the heaters and hopefully it thaws out before your next call.”

No matter the call — no matter the weather — Mandernach is as cool as ice.

“You get that adrenaline running and you get going,” he said. “You got to calm all of that down because if you don’t get there, then there’s nobody to help.”

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