Watertown Fire and Rescue fight flames, cold temperatures, wind

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WATERTOWN, S.D. (KSFY) - Just after 5:30 this morning, the Watertown Fire Department responded to a fire call downtown.

"Crews arrived on scene, battalion Chief got on scene and determined that there was pressurized smoke coming from the facility," Don Rowland, assistant chief of Watertown Fire and Rescue.

Battalion Chief Tyler McElhany and his crew were the first to arrive.

"We did make entry in the first floor, and found fire on the inside but we could tell there was fire above and below us," McElhany said.

After determining no one was inside McElhany decided to take a defensive approach.

"And basically tried to attack the fire as best we could from the outside," McElhany said.

Since early this morning, firefighters have had to fight brutally cold temperatures and blowing winds.

"The cold is one thing, but the winds blowing, the snows blowing so we're continuously checking on our team members," McElhany.

Luckily, businesses in the community have done what they can to help.

"The firefighters needed a warm place to stay so we opened our warehouse," said D.J. York, owner of Duane's Floor Coverings.

D.J. York is a volunteer with the Codington County Search and Rescue, he also owns a business down the street from the fire.

"We were dispatched to help the Fire Department, and being a local business owner, just half a block away from the fire, I came willing to help," York said.

Even though they received community help, Rowland, McElhany and the rest of the crews were never going to let the frigid temperatures stop them.

"Believe me, I'm here to tell you that they will stay out there as long as it takes to get the job done," Rowland said.

Fire officials have since deemed the building structurally unstable, meaning a collapse of the building is possible.