ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Flames and smoke create enough obstacles for firefighters, but fighting fires in the winter can be even more challenging.

“Every season has a different challenge as a firefighter,” said Rockford Fire Department Lieutenant Timothy Morris. “The extreme temperatures are the worst.”

Morris has been on the job 21 years and says extreme cold is one of the worst in which to fight fires.

Erick Eckerstrom, in his first year as a firefighter, agrees, adding, “It definitely has more challenges than in the summertime. Your gear freezes up, hydrants freeze up, hose lines freeze. The ice is a big problem, too.”

The Rockford Fire Department says fires in the winter are often caused by fireplaces and space heaters.

“The number two cause of accidental fires, that we see most of the time in the city of Rockford, is due to the improper spacing of our space heaters or lack of maintenance to our furnaces,” Morris said.

Eckerstrom advised, “Keeping your space heater away from anything that can light up, keeping you furnaces inspected and your fireplaces cleaned and inspected, also.”

Morris says in addition to frozen equipment, firefighters also face the same wintry problems the community faces: icy and snowy roads.

“If residents can remember to salt and plow their driveways, sidewalks, steps getting to the house, it saves us time. It also makes it more safe for them and for us,” he said.

Morris urged residents to check their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and recommended “adopting” a fire hydrant, to keep it snow and ice free in the wintertime.