When temperatures plummeted last week, many simply put on a sweater and tried to stay inside as much as possible. But for some, the harsh cold is just another day at the office.
For construction workers, street crews and fire fighters cold weather is taken in stride as being part of the job.
“When the temperature gets too cold, we try to absorb our guys to jobs that are under roof,” said Paul Brockmiller, president and owner of Brockmiller Construction. “We will also send guys to other job sites as well.”
Brockmiller added that some of his men will do maintenance work and update the equipment in periods of time when the cold temperatures do not allow his crews to work outside.
“My guys will be able to do some maintenance and do equipment update, but that may be limited to a week or so,” Brockmiller said. “If it goes too long, I might just have to tell them to stay home. It’s just part of being in construction.”
For Brockmiller Construction, last week’s cold weather did bring work stoppage at a couple of their sites, but the decision to close down is not only based upon the effects the weather has on the men but the effect it has on the material being used at the site.
Brockmiller explained concrete cannot be poured when it’s too cold. The nighttime temperatures are the ones crews are most concerned about.
“As long as it doesn’t get too cold, we can put concrete blanket over it,” Brockmiller said. “But we have to be careful of the night time temperatures so water in the concrete won’t freeze.”
Brockmiller was not the only with crews concerned about the cold weather last week. Farmington Public Works Supervisor Larry Lacy’s crews were also affected by the extreme cold.
“We can’t have our guys out in weather like that, it’s just too cold,” Lacy said. “When it’s too cold, we can’t pour concrete and if it’s below 40 degrees, we can’t lay asphalt.”
In addition, when the ground is frozen too long, the public works department cannot dig, which is another factor which determines if a site will be shut down.
Like Brockmiller, Lacy and his men will work on city facilities and equipment during those extreme weather patterns.
According to Lacy, when the temperature hovers around zero for too long, it is the city’s street crews that usually gets busy.
“When it gets too cold, water mains and water valves begin to break,” Lacy said. “This is when the street department actually gets really busy. They have make repairs immediately.”
While most people who work outdoors would prefer the warmer weather, the Farmington Fire Department is the exact opposite. For them, the cold temperature is not that debilitating.
“The gear we wear is thick,” said Captain Tom Harris. “So we stay pretty warm during the winter.”
According to Harris, during extreme cold weather, a fire fighter being covered in ice is not a problem. To warm up, they can always climb into the truck.
“Most of the time about half of (your body) is covered in ice,” Harris said. “You let someone spray you off and then you climb into the truck.”
The cold weather may not cause concern for the fire fighter, but it can cause significant problems with a department’s equipment.
“As soon as we can, we get the houses picked up and head back to the firehouse,” Harris said. “We also have to be careful about the water in the truck. It’s just plain water. You can’t put any anti-freeze in it. Last week we had a line bust on one of the trucks.”
With the winter season upon us for another couple of months, there is no telling when the next blast of arctic air will coming rolling through, and for those who will be outside, it’s just another day at the office.
Craig Vaughn is a reporter with the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or at email@example.com