MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s hard enough for fire crews to battle a fire, just imagine doing it in sub-zero temperatures.

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The fire chief called conditions at the Cedar Avenue apartment fire in Minneapolis, “brutal.”

And fire crews went to extreme measures to battle extreme conditions.

“You can see the windows all the way across the street. Something must have blew pretty hard,” said witness Robert Gilliver.

Gilliver and his son Jaxon couldn’t help but stop and watch what was happening on Cedar Avenue. It didn’t take them long to realize that firefighters were battling much more than a five-alarm fire.

“Freezing cold. My toes are numb, my fingers are numb. I can only imagine what the firefighters are going through,” Gilliver said.

As fire crews sprayed water from overhead, much of it poured out down below — in sub-zero temperatures that quickly created treacherous conditions.

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“With all that ice out here now, it’s like trying to work on a skating rink,” said Fire Chief John Fruetel.

Crews also had to spend time dealing with frozen hoses — as nozzles would freeze if the water was shut off for even a few seconds. Ladders also froze up. And above all, firefighters battled-on, even as frost bite became a real concern.

“We set up rehab areas where we can rotate crews through some place that is warm. Whether that be a structure or a vehicle. It’s some place where we can rotate crews in and out and can monitor their conditions,” Chief Fruetel said.

Despite the elements, they worked quickly to get the fire under control and to keep it from spreading.

“Any of us firefighters up in the northern climates, not just Minneapolis, we all know what it’s like to try and fight fires in this weather. It’s certainly challenging,” Chief Fruetel said.

Chief Fuetel said it was remarkable that no firefighters were hurt, considering there were several slips and falls.

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Those looking to help the victims of the fire can send donations to the Minneapolis Red Cross.

John Lauritsen