Crews battle frigid temperatures, wind at Racine school fire

RACINE (WITI) -- Racine firefighters had to fight not only flames at Thursday morning’s fire at Mitchell School, but frigid temperatures and wind as well.

“I got the call about 2:45 a.m. and breaks my heart to see it so destroyed,” said Lolli Haws, the superintendent of Racine Unified Schools.

Haws was in shock when she heard that Mitchell School was on fire, but she said it was even worse to see in person. The building was almost unrecognizable in some places -- the walls, nearby trees, and the inside of the gym was coated in ice. It was just one indication of how challenging the cold weather and wind was for firefighters.

“We did call the entire department out to this fire. The cold weather has had a big impact. We have ice everywhere, we have hose lines that are frozen up,” said Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen.

The fire chief said that while fighting the fire, one firefighter slipped on the ice and was injured. He was taken to the hospital and released shortly after.

The safety of the men and women fighting the smoke and fire was a huge priority, as was getting the fire under control.

”We're checking our members out now for frost bite. We're rotating crews just to get them warmed up even though we're all dressed in warm clothing, once you get wet inside your firefighting gear it can go downhill pretty quickly,” said Chief Hansen.

Despite the added obstacles, firefighters were able to contain most of the damage to the gym and get it under control after about 3 hours.

“The crews were very aggressive in their fire attack and they were able to stop the fire extending into the school itself,” said Hansen.

Still, just looking at the mess and damage left behind can be jarring for facility, parents and students

“Kids love their school. It’s their home. It’s where they feel safest and happiest and I’m sure it will break their hearts to see it all covered in ice like that it’s very sad,” said Haws.