By ANDY NEWMAN and MICHELLE O'DONNELL
Published: January 28, 2004

Spray from fire hoses freezes on the uniform, turning firefighters into stiff-armed ice figures. Spray hits the face and causes frostbite, or runs beneath the collar and breeds hypothermia.

Hydrants freeze. Water freezes in hoses. Hoses freeze to the ground. Staircases turn into frozen waterfalls, and firefighters wearing 60 pounds of equipment slip and fall and blow out their knees.

Fighting fires is never easy, but in winter, when fires multiply, so do the dangers. Now firefighters do not battle just thick smoke and oxygen-hungry flames; they must deal with the opposite extreme, ice and the freezing night.

Twelve fires broke out within 12 hours in New York City late Monday and early yesterday