CHAMPAIGN -- Investigators have been working to determine the cause of a fire which broke out in the 200-block of North Victor about 4 am Tuesday. Authorities say the fire did not start by itself, but they're not calling it arson because they don't know who or why it was started.
It broke out in the corner of a garage then spread to a vacant home. The garage is a total loss.
Crews had to call for backup because of the tough weather conditions. Police are now in charge of the investigation.
Update: 10:01 pm, 1/22/13, Tuesday
CHAMPAIGN -- Firefighting is a hazardous job which gets worse when the temperature drops. Crews had their hands full Tuesday when fire broke out in a garage in the 200-block of North Victor about 4 am. It spread to an empty home next door. WCIA-3's Jeff Wagner finds out how the weather hampered the operation.
"The temperature was about 1 degree or zero which kind of complicated things."
"Kind of" seems like an understatement after learning what crews weathered. Water, the main tool to stop fire, turned into their worst enemy.
"The water being sprayed around, it creates trip-slip-and-fall hazards."
"The street was icy due to the water. The sidewalk was icy."
But, slick conditions weren't the only problem. Wet gear instantly turned to ice, freezing everything from gloves to parts on oxygen tanks.
"It's even hard to turn them off because these get slippery and frozen."
"You can't undo them, you can't loosen them."
Then there's the transition from the burning building to the frozen air.
"They're hot under their gear, they're sweaty. And then, when they come out and take their protective hood, their helmet off, their mask. The water on your face can freeze. Your hair will freeze and that's not healthy."
Deputy Chief Eric Mitchell says that's part of the reason extra crews were called in to give those first on-scene a chance to cool off, warm back up, and get back to doing their jobs.
"Firefighting is a dangerous business. But today, luckily, because of the extreme temperatures, we were lucky to get by with just a couple of minor injuries."
Two firefighters were hurt at the scene. One partially fell through the third floor. Another slipped on ice. Both are fine and already back at work.
Original: 5:15 am, 1/22/13, Tuesday
CHAMPAIGN -- Two firefighters suffered bruises and strains in a fall while battling an early morning fire in sub-zero temperatures. Crews were called to the corner of Church and Victor streets about 4 am Tuesday.
The fire broke out in a garage shared by two properties. People were evacuated from one home; the other was vacant. The garage is a total loss. No word on a cause.