43-year firefighting veteran on putting out blazes in arctic temperatures: 'It's a battle'

PHOTO: Fire Chief Mitch Hansen in Cameron, Wis., on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, after battling a house fire in minus 50 wind chills. The overspray from the hoses was hitting firefighters as ice pellets.PlayCameron Fire Assistant Chief Bilbo Gifford
WATCH Firefighters struggle to battle fires in sub-zero temps

Some pictures can tell 1,000 words, but the one of a Wisconsin fire chief covered in head-to-toe ice got across one sentiment clearly: Brrrrrr.

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Cameron Fire Assistant Chief Dan "Bimbo" Gifford shared the image of Cameron Fire Chief Mitch Hansen on Wednesday, after firefighters finished fighting a house fire in frigid temperatures.

In Cameron, Wisconsin, the wind chill fell to minus 52 Wednesday. The hose's over-spray hit the firefighters like ice pellets.

Hansen told ABC News on Thursday that when fighting the blaze, "the heat of the moment and the Adrenalin rush keeps you warm."

But, he said, "as soon as you start slowing down and getting done then that's when the reality and the cold starts setting in."

PHOTO: Fire Chief Mitch Hansen in Cameron, Wis., on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, after battling a house fire in minus 50 wind chills. The overspray from the hoses was hitting firefighters as ice pellets. Cameron Fire Assistant Chief Bilbo Gifford
Fire Chief Mitch Hansen in Cameron, Wis., on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, after battling a house fire in minus 50 wind chills. The overspray from the hoses was hitting firefighters as ice pellets.

"You try to start taking some equipment off and ... everything's froze to each other. Your gloves are froze on your coat and your fingers are stiff and cold and probably frostbit most of the time," he said.

The family whose home outside Cameron had caught fire Wednesday were in "good shape" and "good health," Hansen said, with the community stepping up to collect and donate items.

Sometimes your eyelids are froze shut and in weird positions. ... That happens a lot.

As the cold continued to hold Wisconsin and other parts of the U.S. in its grip, Cameron firefighters were making sure that their water lines continued running so they didn't freeze up and that everyone remained safe as they did their jobs, Hansen said.

"We worry mostly about freeze up. ... Your ladders freeze. ... It's a battle," he said.

Hansen said he'd been a firefighter for 43 years, joining when he was just 16 years old. He's been a chief for 2.5 years.

"We got a family tradition," said Hansen, whose brother had also been a fire chief. "Four Hansens in the family on the fire department including my dad. ... We keep doing it. All in the same community. The same department."

He also is co-owner of a dirt track speedway and has a spray-foam business he started a little more than a year ago.

He said the "call to duty" kept him going, even when it required fighting flames in frigid temperatures.

"Sometimes your eyelids are froze shut and in weird positions. ... That happens a lot. ... I couldn't get my gloves off because they were froze onto my turnout gear so I had to have him (colleague) push my eyebrow up so I could see out of the one eye. It was funny," Hansen said.