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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Gov. Mike Pence was at the new Southwest Allen County Fire District station Wednesday to thank first responders, including firefighter Bryce Western, for their efforts during the recent winter storm.

Warm embrace after arctic duty

As more snow fell Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike Pence thanked and shook hands with dozens of local public safety employees assembled at a soon-to-open fire station.

“While this winter storm event was not without heartache in this state, I have to believe in my heart that it would have been a whole lot worse if it wasn’t for men and women like those gathered at this fire station today,” Pence told state and county police, firefighters, transportation workers and Indiana National Guard members.

“You got out in it, you got out after it, and you made a real difference,” Pence told them at the new Allen County Southwest Fire District station on Lower Huntington Road.

He said northern Indiana bore the brunt of this week’s severe weather, which brought subzero temperatures and a foot of snow to many places.

“You were dealing with the heaviest snow, the harshest cold and the harshest winds,” he said.

Nearly all of the 29 counties where Pence declared an emergency are north of Indianapolis, and most are in the northern third of the state, including Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties. The emergency declaration is necessary for Pence to apply for federal disaster aid.

Although Allen County isn’t on the list, the county’s Southwest Fire District has had its hands full all week. Chief Don Patnoude said crews have responded to two house fires ignited by space heaters, several medical calls including a frostbite victim and numerous motorists stranded in the snow.

“I don’t know how many of them we’ve done,” he said about vehicle slide-offs. “We did one coming over here as a matter of fact.”

Patnoude said bursting water lines are the latest problem as climbing temperatures thaw frozen pipes in homes.

Pence told reporters that many of the state’s main roads mostly had been cleared of snow but that “we still have, obviously, a lot of work to do on the side roads.”