Author: Adabel

New Year, New Ride: Apparatus Trends for 2018

fire engine trends 2018

We’ve all seen car ads boasting of the latest features in comfort, safety, and technology – automatic brakes, WiFi hotspots, and so on. By and large, these are nice things that make car travel a safer, more comfortable experience. While fire apparatus aren’t necessarily concerned with comfort, there are some interesting innovations and trends coming in the next year that will enhance safety and operational efficiency.

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Common Challenges Volunteer Firefighters and their Leaders Face

The National Fire Department Registry (NFDR) published a report in April 2017 detailing the number and type of personnel who man the firehouses throughout the US.  The NFDR published that there are 27,192 fire departments that staff about 1,215,300 firefighting personnel.  One striking and surprising result of the NFDR study is that of the active firefighting personnel, 32 percent were career firefighters, 56 percent were volunteer firefighters, and 12 percent were paid-per-call firefighters.

The statistics compiled by the NFDR highlight a challenge faced by fire departments and the cities, towns, and municipalities they are sworn to protect.  The fact is that when you call for help or have an emergency, five out of ten firefighters who show up to render aid are volunteering. Volunteer fire departments cover vast sections of the country that are not serviced by paid fire services.  Traditionally these departments existed primarily to respond mainly to structure and wildland fires.  However, as funding for EMS services is reduced, volunteers are finding themselves responding to accidents, technical rescue, and other life-threatening emergencies.  The new administration’s unprecedented cuts have also befallen onto volunteer fire station budgets.  The budget cuts and reduced funding are raising concerns about the state of department readiness and the ability to respond with near obsolete equipment. In order for the volunteer agencies to succeed they must keep up with the needs, growth, and changes of their community and society.  Simply put, you simply cannot use 1960 technologies to service 2018 problems.

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California’s “New Normal” Demands New Staff and New Strategies in 2018

Some of the biggest headlines of late show that California has been on fire near continuously over the past couple of months. Agencies such as CAL Fire and the Forestry Service have beefed up their staffing in the face of these unprecedented blazes.

The staffing increase is especially underway in Southern California in the face of strong winds and continuous dry conditions throughout the recent fire season. Coupled with the extent of the burnt scrub and bushes from past fires, these blazes have already chewed up hundreds of thousands of acres and destroyed thousands of structures. In response to these fires, as well as in handling the aftermath with recent flooding and mudslides, various fire and forestry agencies have stepped up their hiring efforts. As these intense blazes become more aggressive, sufficient personnel will be needed to respond to these emergencies with equal aggression.

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Repairing the Damage: Female Arizona Inmates Serving as Firefighters

Building and maintaining a sufficient crew is an ongoing challenge for many fire companies, and several of these groups struggle to meet that challenge. It isn’t at all uncommon for fire companies to recruit and retain volunteers by drawing from the communities these organizations serve. However, for many areas and municipalities throughout the country, the need for qualified personnel is a bigger problem than the more traditional recruitment strategies can solve.

Arizona has discovered one innovative solution that has been implemented to great effect. Women inmates from the Perryville prison complex have been responding to wildfires for a number of years now, and the successful program is finally gaining the recognition it deserves.

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Record Setting Thomas Fire Caps an Unprecedented Fire Season

The final California wildfire of the year has been decimating much of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since early December, 2017. In terms of acreage, this final inferno is the largest in the history of the state. In terms of how this fire has spread and behaved, many veterans claim they’ve never seen anything like it.

All up and down the state this season, battling one devastating blaze after another, California has just suffered one of the most destructive fires in its history – the Thomas fire. The Thomas fire has reached the top of the list of history’s most destructive fires to ever chew through California.

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Privatized Firefighters Aid Insurance Companies

In the wake of the increase in wildfires throughout the American West, insurance companies are taking the proactive step of hiring and utilizing private fire crews to assist homeowners in more fire-prone areas. While the practice has been in place since the 1970s, these measures have understandably been taken more frequently as of late.

Firms such as Pure Insurance and Chubbs Limited have implemented this service for their policyholders over the last decade, and given the nature of these fires over the past few seasons, it’s proving useful across 13 states. Its benefits are enjoyed most strongly in California, as development stretches its fingers further into fire-prone areas where the fire season is essentially year round.

These privatized firefighters don’t necessarily work alongside government agencies in active fire suppression. However, they are with companies contracted by the insurance companies to patrol the neighborhoods of policy holders, and they take preventative steps to reduce the likelihood of damage should a fire approach the home.

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Winterizing Your Fire Truck: Protecting your Apparatus from Harsh Winters

how to prepare your fire truck for winter

The winter weather for most people marks the time of the year that brings the holidays, skiing, slick roads, and a chance to hurl a snowball at a loved one or pesky neighbor.  As a firefighter the upcoming winter provides a separate set of challenges that must be recognized to ensure the equipment and personnel responsible for protecting the community are safe.  Historical evidence has shown the firefighting community that extended fire calls are more likely to occur during periods of severe cold.   This result comes from the public utilizing approved and unapproved heating sources to combat the cold in their homes. The colder it gets the greater the probability that our personnel will become involved in a prolonged operation where saving life and property is necessary.  It’s important to remember that the time to plan for winter firefighting operations begins long before the snowflakes start to fall.  The following questions can be used to measure how prepared you are for the onset of colder temperatures:  What has your fire department done to prepare your apparatus and personnel for winter? What has your fire department done to prepare experienced operators for winter driving?

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How to Become a Better Training Chief

The position of training chief is a unique one. It’s part administration, yet you’re still involved in the hands-on stuff because… well… that’s how you train firefighters. There are live burns in the morning and a data spreadsheet in the afternoon to keep up with who needs recertification in what. Somewhere in there, you have to either justify your budget or put something together to implement a new training program or endeavor. Meanwhile, you’re organizing your own training schedule so that you’re current in all the required courses to legally do your job. You have to be a leader with a diplomatic touch in the office, but on the training grounds you may have to summon the drill sergeant.

In short, it’s no easy task, and it’s not for everyone.

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Northern California Fire Crews Switch Focus from Blazes to Mudslides

Even though the wildfires that ravaged the North Bay region of California are now under control, there still looms the equally devastating threat of mudslides throughout the area. Many of the scorched hillsides have been reduced to ash and debris, just waiting for the rainy winter season that could turn them into deadly mudslides. The threat is real enough that some of the areas with steeper terrain have been ordered to evacuate.

Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director for Cal Fire, spoke with the Napa Valley Registry and explained that part of their task in the clean up after the fires was to consult with hydrologists and forestry experts to examine the damaged watersheds. They assess the soil burn severity. A hot fire bakes the soil like a brick, and then rainwater can’t soak in. The runoff results in erosion and debris flows.

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Government Agencies and Lawmakers Butting Heads Over 2018 Fire Budget

A long-standing tug of war has existed between government agencies and the lawmakers sworn to act in the best interest of the people.  Congress represents the people of the United States. Members serve their constituents, the people who live in the district from which they are elected. Lawmakers must please their constituents if they want to stay in office, and every issue must therefore be considered from the perspectives of those constituents.  Government agencies for the most part are insulated from their constituents in that they serve them but are not subject to ouster if the public at large does not agree with their decisions.  Designed to work in unison, the government agencies compete for public dollars to help serve the public, while lawmakers pass legislation that sets the budget to effectively carry out the missions of these agencies. As the wallets of federal, state, and local governments have tightened this year,  the agencies who are slated to receive limited funding to carry out their missions start to vocally and procedurally push back against lawmakers.

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