ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson has told all city firefighters and EMS crews to follow the department’s “cold weather, emergency operations” rules as extreme winter weather is expected to hit St. Louis from Thursday through Christmas Day.

Firefighters responded to a car crash scene in 45-degree sunshine in north St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon, knowing it would be much different in the snow and double-digit negative wind chills headed our way.

All St. Louis firefighters and EMS crews must review the cold weather operations that Jenkerson updated and sent out Tuesday morning.

“It’s going out just to make sure we’ve got enough ice melt in all of the fire houses, bring extra clothing in case you get held over,” Jenkerson said. “We’re changing how we respond… We’ll put an additional couple of trucks on the scene to handle some overhaul, if you will. That way, we can cycle the firefighters/EMS members out of the cold.”

Water in the firetrucks’ pumps and hoses will have to be circulated to keep from freezing, he said. He reminded everyone to park at least 15 feet from hydrants and to never use space heaters in unattended rooms.

“If you’re going to use a space heater to heat up a room, make sure you’re in the room. When you leave the room, unplug it,” Jenkerson said. “Don’t just turn it off, unplug it. There’s no safe way to manage a space heater if you’re not sitting there. My one thing I worry about the most is the quick onset (of the extreme weather) and that people aren’t ready for it.”

For people concerned about utility bills, Jenkerson is urging everyone to keep their furnaces on and request assistance from the charity Heat Up St. Louis.

Tracy Amos, who grew up in north St. Louis County but now lives in Florida, was wearing shorts while visiting his mom in St. Louis on Tuesday. His family took her to lunch at Crown Candy Kitchen, loving the sunshine and mid-40s temperatures.

Still, he was planning ahead; so was his mom, Phyllys Peluso, who joked she won’t be going out at all.

‘We’re headed back to Florida tomorrow, so we’re going to beat the storm,” Amos said.

This time around, Christmas may end up being merrier that way.