Submitted by David M. Przybysz, Assistant Chief / President and Jaye R. Graham, Chief

When winter weather approaches in western Pennsylvania, specifically here in Chippewa, there are generally two schools of thought. The first is the excitement of the changing weather. The cool crisp air, snow turning everything clean and white, kids throwing snowballs and sled riding, people decorating for the holidays, shopping and spreading Christmas cheer. The second school of thought, is that of bitter cold temperatures, ice, snow, school cancellations, short gray days and long dark nights.

Whether you enjoy the winter months or hate them, the fact of the matter is that they are a distinctive part of living in western Pennsylvania.

While each of us have a different approach to the unique challenges that are common place in dealing with winter weather, how many of us have actually taken the time to consider all the increased safety risks there are in the winter?

At the fire department, not only do we think of it, we analyze it, we train for it and we live it. We have to! It’s what you count on us for! That doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Any other time of the year, when you call 911 and the fire department is dispatched, our available volunteers drop what they are doing, jump in their cars and respond to the station within minutes. Now, let’s consider our winter response. Keep in mind that we are all volunteer. There is no staff at the station! It’s 3am. There are several inches of snow outside from a passing storm and it’s about 20 degrees. Our pagers go off alerting us to a house on fire. We can’t just throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and run out of the house. We quickly grab some warm socks and a sweatshirt. We rush to put on a pair of boots and hastily grab a jacket. We run outside to our cold, snow covered vehicle, start it up and quickly brush the snow off the windshield. With the defroster on high, we impatiently wait for the windshield to clear, sometimes just enough to see the road through. We slip and slide on the snow covered roads, doing our best to get to the station quickly and safely. Once there, we grab our gear and jump onto the truck.

A fire engine is large and heavy. Driving through the snow is not an easy task. It takes extreme concentration. Once we get on scene we hope we can make it up the uncleared driveway. The gear we wear is bulky and cumbersome. We try not to slip or fall while dragging our heavy hoses up to the house. Carrying ladders and climbing on rooftops certainly provides an element of danger in good weather, let alone in ice and snow. Speaking of ice, the truck and hose connections tend to leak not to mention the water we are putting on the fire creates streams of ice causing not only a slipping hazard but a driving one as well! As you can imagine, all of these factors greatly reduce our response time and efficiency.

There are several ways that you can help in keeping not only yourself, but also your volunteer firefighters safe as well. Prevention is our best tool! Especially during the winter months and throughout the holidays, we ask that you pay close attention not to overload power cords, leave candles burning or operate wood stoves, fireplaces or other optional heat sources without properly inspecting and cleaning them first.

Make sure your address is visible on your house or near your driveway. Use reflective numbers so that we can find you in the dark more easily. Team up with your neighbors and keep your closest fire hydrants shoveled out. Even mark them with a flag or reflector so that we can find them! If drinking is part of your holiday festivities, please do so in moderation. Utilize a designated driver or simply celebrate at home! By applying some of these helpful tips, not only are you helping us out when we need to respond to you for an emergency, you may be preventing us from having to respond at all!

During the winter months, we try to stay as visible and involved with the community as we can. You can see our trucks all lit up and decorated for the holidays at the Beaver Falls lighted Christmas parade the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We’ve also been know to make an appearance at the parade in Beaver as well! And for the second year in a row, we will proudly be helping Santa Claus make his last minute rounds here in Chippewa before heading back to the North Pole to prepare for his big night. “Santa Stops” will be posted at select locations throughout the Township and on Thursday evening December 19th, Santa will be making his rounds via fire truck! The locations and times will be posted on our Facebook page and our website. We encourage families and children of all ages to walk or drive to one of the stops to see Santa and receive a sweet treat!

On behalf of the fire department, we not only wish for you a very safe and enjoyable winter, but also a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years

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