As the weather in the United States starts to change with the onset of winter, so too do the causes of fires. Daily fire incidence is at its highest in the spring. Spring in the US is characterized by an increase in outside fires due to the prevalence of recreational activities after winter. As people emerge from the winter months there is also an increase in trees, grass, and brush that are susceptible to human caused fires. Summer fires are incendiary. During this time large regional fires are evident and pervasive. Seasonal fires in the summertime are largely outdoor fires ignited under suspicious circumstances, by negligent use of fireworks, and other natural causes such as lightning strikes. These fires grow into events that exhibit extreme fire behavior and take the long hot months to extinguish. However, as the onslaught of wintry weather grips much of the nation the incidence, causes, and severity of fire changes from occurring outside in the wilderness to inside the sanctuary and comfort of our homes. Fires in our homes wreak just as much havoc as those occurring outside. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 358,500 home structure fires per year during 2011-2015. These fires caused an average of 2,510 civilian deaths, 12,300 civilian injuries, and $6.7 billion in direct property damage per year.
Cold winter weather occurring in the Fall and Winter months brings us inside and increases the time that people spend at home, thereby increasing the risks of house fires. In the winter months we avoid the elements by heating our homes, cooking inside, and adorning our living arrangements with festive holiday displays. According to a 2017 National Fire Protection Association report, home fire deaths showed an increased occurrence in the five months of November through March. The report outlined fire statistics that found that from 2011 to 2015 47% of home structure fires and 56% of home structure fire deaths occurred during the peak holiday period from Thanksgiving stretching into New Years.
As might be expected, fire originating from cooking holiday meals increased on both Thanksgiving and Christmas days, but drop below average on the following days. During the Christmas period, structure fires increase and the dollar loss per fire spiked to 34 percent greater than normal. Reasons cited were due largely to the decorative use of Christmas trees, cooking, ignition of combustible materials such as wrapping paper, and candles. The statistics above are not surprising due to holiday cooking and the more prevalent use of home fireplaces, displays, and decorations involving candles and lights. What is surprising about the report is that the daily incidence of unattended candle started fires nearly quadruples on Christmas Day. One can imagine or even admit to feverishly ripping through wrapping paper to unveil a gift and mistakenly throwing these paper items near a candle, or worse yet, at the base of a lit fireplace. Undoubtedly the most common addition to the home for the holiday season, and the most likely to ignite, is the Christmas tree. The tree, draped in lights and combustible materials, may ignite easily especially if dried out. Moreover, the tree is often positioned in such a way to allow fire to spread to other combustible materials in the house. This was cited as the cause for a 2015 fire at a 16,000 square foot mansion on the waterfront of a suburban home near Baltimore, Maryland. The cause of the fire, which took the lives of six people including two grandparents and their four grandchildren, was a 16-foot tall Christmas tree that the owners left lit most of the time in the great room of the house. An electrical failure ignited the two-month-old tree, which swiftly fueled the fire in the rest of the house.
Along with the time spent giving thanks and revisiting with loved ones, the holidays can be a time to understand how home fires occur and finding better ways to prevent such incidents. Product engineering has reduced the risk of inadvertent fires by designing home appliances that have automatic shut-offs on heating and cooking equipment to improve safety. However, there are instances where smart devices cannot substitute for safe and practical steps to prevent fires in our home. Here are some easy steps to ensure you are safe:
If you are the unfortunate victim of a house fire it’s imperative that you have working smoke detectors. The NFPA reports that almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires with no working smoke alarms. The NFPA also listed that smoke alarms were present in almost three-quarters of reported home fires, remarkably better than historical results pertaining to smoke detectors in homes. However, there is still much improvement to gain as 39% of home fire deaths resulted from fires in which either no smoke alarm was present or at least one alarm was present but did not operate. Fires during the holidays are largely preventable, take the time to prepare.
As a company that has relationships with volunteer firefighters in various rural communities that always seem strapped for cash, we at BME found this story of particular interest. Many volunteer departments rely on annual funding drives to help supplement local funding, but that typically still only covers the more routine operational costs such as training, maintenance, and upkeep of the fire station. Anyone who has served, especially in fire districts with high call volume, knows that the day will come when you will need to make that appeal to your municipality — or even to the citizens you’re protecting — for extra money.
In this particular instance, a local fire chief named Jon Buckingham out of Medway, Maine, resigned over his municipality’s refusal to replace a pumper-tanker engine that he felt was no longer safe. Before his resignation, the chief claimed that the 1988 Pierce had to have repairs made to the electrical and steering systems, had body rust and lost its transmission during pump tests. While the chief felt that this warranted investment in a new or used piece of apparatus, Chief Buckingham was unable to get the funding he needed. Rather than the minimum $100,000 that would be necessary to purchase a used replacement for the vehicle, $20,000 was allotted to repair it yet again.
This story sheds light on a common issue many volunteer fire departments face. Although local governments and citizens may appreciate the service that volunteer firefighters provide to the community, often times there just isn’t enough funding to go around to meet the needs of volunteer departments.
It’s necessary for any agency, regardless of their function in the community, to request funds for whatever it is they believe they need. They must plead their case as effectively as possible to justify the expense. However, if a request for funds is deemed unnecessary, fiscally impossible, or downright extravagant (which is not what we’re implying in this instance), then the agency must find other alternatives. For Chief Buckingham, the only alternative was to resign. Some believed it was an extreme choice, but others within the community praised him for taking a stand for firefighter safety.
Regardless, funding is a common issue within the firefighting industry, even among federally funded fire departments. All too often, extra funding is deemed unnecessary until tragedy strikes; much like the recent wildfires that have caused devastating destruction throughout the Western United States.
Fire chiefs are left with the task of determining where to allocate the financial resources provided to them, no matter how limited their budget may be. At BME, we recognize these limitations and provide alternatives for fire chiefs to acquire the fire trucks they need to get the job done. To help fire departments circumvent budget limitations, BME has existing fire apparatus contracts with the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the General Services Administration. The significance of these contracts is that fire departments and other agencies have the ability to “tag-on” to these contracts, giving them access to competitively low pricing and the ability to avoid long bidding processes when purchasing fire apparatuses. “Tagging-on” means to add your purchase order for a fire apparatus to an existing purchase order related to a pre-existing contract.
If your department is interested in tagging-on to either of these contracts, contact BME today.
December has been a hard month for the Golden State. A series of 16 wildfires ignited throughout Southern California during the first week of December causing panic and widespread destruction of property. The rapidly moving fires that have forced thousands of Californians to evacuate their homes have been exacerbated by unusually powerful and unending Santa Ana winds. Winds, along with power line malfunctions has facilitated the growth of fires by igniting vast amounts of dry vegetation.
On Saturday, December 9th, Governor Jerry Brown visited the largest fire, the Thomas fire located near Ventura, to assess the situation. Governor Brown praised the efforts of firefighters, law enforcement and conservationists as the state entered the sixth day of devastating wildfires. The Governor proceeded to go off script when he commented that “We’re facing a new reality in the state,” Brown said. “We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas,” Brown said. “This is very odd and unusual, but it is the way the world is due to the carbon pollution humans are living with and generating” he said. The California Governor then went on to renew assertions regarding the declaration of a state of emergency in Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties.
The wildfires and their widespread destruction did not escape the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump. The President acted on the Governor’s assessment and officially declared a state of emergency for Southern California on December 8th. The designation is particularly important as the total bill for the 2017 California fire season approaches $2.5B. The White House declaration will make available federal assistance to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts, including FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
Collectively across the southern portion of the state, 8,500 firefighters are deployed at the 16 fires, more than 175,000 acres had burned, 793 structures had been destroyed, and have forced over 212,000 people to evacuate their homes as of the morning of Saturday December 9th.
Here is a summary of the largest fires:
The Thomas Fire began Monday December 4th and moved exceptionally fast through its origination point in the Los Padres National forest and into densely populated areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The fire, now at around 230,000 acres, grew at a rate of about 31,000 acres in about nine hours, nearly an acre per second. Authorities ordered residents in parts of Carpinteria and Montecito to leave early on Sunday as the fire edged closer to Santa Barbara, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles on the scenic central California coast. The blaze has been named the worst of sixteen major fires in Southern California and the 10th largest in the history of California since 1932. As of Sunday December 10th the fire has been estimated at 15% containment, but officials warned that the blaze will continue to threaten structures in various parts of the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula, Casitas Springs, and Carpenteria. Further hindering the firefighting efforts were the National Weather Service predictions that forecasted winds of up to 55 miles per hour were expected on Sunday evening.
The Creek Fire started on December 5th at 3:44 am four miles east of Sylmar, California in the Angeles National Forest. As of December 10th, the Creek Fire had burned 15,619 acres, destroyed 123 structures, including 60 homes in the communities of Santa Clarita, Glendale, and Olive View. The rugged and steep terrain where the fire is burning has proved to be daunting for local resources. The terrain as well as the heavy Santa Ana winds caused the fire to grow quickly and challenge the perseverance of some firefighters who had been on shift for several days. However, firefighters were able to edge out the blaze and on Friday December 8th, all the affected 150,000 citywide residents were notified that evacuation orders were lifted. Sadly, a rancher, Virginia Padilla, whose family owns a ranch in Sylmar told reporters the fire killed at least 30 of the ranch’s horses. Padilla said she and her family got out of her home just in time Tuesday morning but were not able to take their horses with them.
The Rye Fire initially broke in one of Santa Clarita’s largest industrial parks at 9:32 a.m. on Tuesday near the 25100 block of Rye Canyon Loop. The fire threatens over 5,000 structures, including Six Flags Magic Mountain, and is threatening the communities of Santa Clarita, Valencia and Castaic Junction. During the first hours of the blaze it quickly jumped the containment lines and was propelled across the 5 freeway by gusts of Santa Ana winds that approached 60 mph. Officials in the area scrambled to close and evacuate West Ranch High School and Rancho Pico Junior High causing gridlocked traffic as parents rushed to remove their kids from the fire’s danger. As of December 10th, the Rye Fire was 90% contained burned 6,049 acres, destroying six buildings. 652 total personnel are still assigned to the blaze, including 55 engines and two helicopters.
Over the course of the summer of 2017 Big Sky residents quickly got used to the lingering smell of the forests burning within their state. Montanans endured one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades marked by home evacuations and a state of emergency declared by the Governor. In addition, the grueling summer of 2017 also witnessed two firefighter fatalities and costs of $380 million in an effort to suppress the fires. Wildfires are not an anomaly to the state’s inhabitants between the months of May and October. However, this years’ situation was exacerbated by high temperatures, paltry rainfall, and desperate drought conditions throughout the state.
Angela Wells, a fire information officer with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said that “the period from June to August was the hottest and driest on record in Montana, and our fire season started about a month earlier than it usually does.” Federal and State agencies partnered to dispatch thousands of firefighters and hundreds of Montana National Guard members to battle the flames of hundreds of large and small wildfires across the state. The situation reached dire circumstances in late September when Montana’s Congressional delegation along with Gov. Steve Bullock requested FEMA administrators to declare a state of emergency. This declaration freed up federal dollars for emergency managers to seek fire management assistance grants and to expedite the state’s grant requests when they are filed. When the smoke cleared, the total burned acreage of Montana lands was estimated at 1,295,959 acres.
Fires impacted the entire state during the landmark 2017 season. However, both the eastern and western portion of the state experienced escalated drought conditions and suffered through the worst of these circumstances. In the eastern portion of the state, The Lodgepole Complex Fire located just outside of Jordan, Montana was at one point both the state’s and the nation’s largest fire of the 2017 wildfire season. The complex was made up of several fires that started when lightning hit desiccated grasses. The initial repercussions of the blaze resulted in 16 primary structures being destroyed by the fires. Aside from the loss of cabins and houses, the fire obliterated over 270,000 acres of grazing land. Unfortunately, the most tangible loss occurred in what the land doesn’t provide, a usable parcel that allows Montana’s cattle farmers to flourish. Many ranchers watched as their grazing land burned and will now likely have to sell off cattle in the long winter months that they are unable to service with burned grasslands. When the grasses return ranchers will have to contend with the cost of replacing the destroyed fencing needed to contain their cattle. The cost, estimated at $15 million by Garfield County rancher Brett Dailey, will burden the already displaced Western Montana cattle cultivators with extra blow dealt to them by the 2017 fire season.
The western portion of Montana was not spared any kindness during the historic fire season. The Lolo Peak Fire burned in western Montana affected both Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests. The fire started in mid-July by lightning strikes on the western flank of Lolo Peak and quickly spread to a total of 539,026 acres by September. In addition to the devastation of two homes and evacuation of 1,150 residences in the town of Lola, Montana, one firefighter, Brent Witham, was killed working the fire. Witham was a member of the Vista Grande Hotshots and one of the 650 firefighters assigned to the fire throughout its 3-month duration. In the northwestern part of the state, fire claimed a historic backcountry chalet in Glacier National Park on September 1st. The Sperry Chalet was built in 1913 and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. An unsuccessful effort mounted by 3 helicopters and countless firefighters at saving the historic structure was unable to quell the flames. A bright spot in the 2017 season occurred when the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made an official statement that rebuilding the Sperry Chalet would be a top priority and that a fund had been established by the Glacier National Park Conservancy Work to begin rebuilding the structure once the thaws begin in early spring 2018.
A combination of gusty winds, extreme drought conditions, and the limited use of available firefighting resources created a historic 2017 wildfire season. The fires throughout the state forced the evacuation of residents, scorched grazing lands, and resulted in the death of 2 members of our community. The 2017 season has touched on an alarming trend throughout the Western region of the US. Over the past 30 years forest wildfire activity in western United States forests has undergone an abrupt and sustained increase in both duration and intensity. Scientists from the Sierra Nevada Research institute cite the change is linked to factors such as warmer temperatures, dry summers, below average winter precipitation or earlier spring snowmelt. Unfortunately the trend of warm and dry summers where wildfires grow quickly does not seem to be subsiding. John Tubbs, director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, stressed the importance of initial attack resources and vehicles such as those manufactured by BME fire. “The people out there got ahead of it and got it stopped,” Tubbs said. “It’s all about the initial attack. It’s about getting those fires out. They’ve stopped hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. They could have all been multimillion dollar fires.”
The potential financial costs of the wildfires that ravaged much of Northern California in October are staggering, taking a tremendous toll on the regional crop industries. Worse still are the more tragic costs of lives and homes. Now that the fires have been contained, the time has come for the necessary work of investigating their origins – and with cause comes accountability.
Considering the magnitude of these fires, how quickly they spread, and the heat they generated, there are a number of factors contributing to the intensity of the natural disaster. Dry conditions, high winds, warming climates, and other considerations all played a role. All fire agencies in the western US have confirmed that their burning seasons are longer and potentially more dangerous as a result of climate change. This is the new nature of things, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to respond and adjust accordingly.
With that being said, in the aftermath of these fires a potential class action suit is brewing. Currently in its infancy, this lawsuit sees several families and homeowners seeking compensation from utility giant PG&E for negligence that they believe caused or contributed to these fires.
At the time of this writing, 15 families and individuals have joined hands in the battle. They are suing the utility company, which is based in San Francisco, for what they say was “gross negligence.” The accusations revolve around PG&E’s allegedly poor performance in maintaining equipment and controlling the proximity of trees and other vegetation to power lines.
This isn’t the first time PG&E has been sued for fire related tragedies. In 2016, a structural fire occurred in Oakland which claimed the lives of 36 people, and PG &E is being held responsible.
The fallout from the Northern California wildfire disaster is still growing, and it’s likely that more families and businesses will join forces against the power company. The case will likely pend for some time.
However, it’s still worth speculating on what the far-reaching consequences will be for major corporations and emergency response agencies when it comes to their liability as fires inevitably spring up in the future. In the political sphere, the veracity and impact of climate change is still hotly debated, which complicates the issues from a legal and compensatory perspective.
Fortunately, first responders are protected under California law written in 1963. Under California Government Code Section 850.4, “neither a public entity, nor a public employee acting in the scope of his employment, is liable for any injury resulting from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities or…for any injury caused in fighting fires.”
While fire agencies are protected under California law, there have been instances in other states across the country where firefighters and their respective agencies have been held liable. Historically, these incidents have been in smaller communities with volunteer-based personnel, and more often than not, the issue in question has been a matter of conduct rather than performance or competency. Still, the unprecedented nature of these new lawsuits may alter the entire dynamic between emergency services and the communities they seek to serve.
The reality of climate change and the unfavorable conditions it fosters for intense blazes could impact evaluation for competency and proficiency. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility or reason that fire companies could come under intense scrutiny as powerhouses such as PG&E inoculate themselves from liability in the future and communities search for someone new to blame and, ultimately, sue.
Since the first volunteer Bucket Brigade established by Benjamin Franklin in 1736, firefighting tactics have evolved. Knowledge gained, increased safety measures, new technologies and new hazards born out of modern construction materials are all causes for the historic changes of the firefighting industry. Traditional firefighting tactics involved daredevil driving practices, brazen entry into fully engulfed structures, and a priority of mission accomplishment over that of firefighter safety. In hindsight, we can see that these approaches display a misunderstanding of risk management and more times than not result in firefighter casualties that could have been prevented given the appropriate direction.
Throughout the history of the fire service, organizations and individuals have recognized the need for a standard set of guidelines to govern and direct their efforts while on-the-job. Advocates of a safe and professional approach to firefighting decided to come together and render some assistance. In 1977, a collaborative work by The Fire Protection Publications (FPP) and the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) released a publication such as the Essentials of Fire Fighting. This publication has and continues to serve as a manual used by fire service training agencies and departments around the world to train personnel to become firefighters. However, as time went on leaders started noticing that while the Essentials manual outlined a vast array of general procedures and safety guidelines, there was a gap in addressing a standard for specific injuries and diseases experienced by firefighters. In the late 1970’s, The National Fire Protection Association produced publication 1500, the Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program to provide the framework for a health and safety program for fire departments. The movement towards the standard was led by a committee chaired with the safety pioneers Alan Brunacini, former Phoenix Fire Chief, and Bruce Teele, senior fire service safety specialist of the NFPA. Teele recounted his thought process for putting together the publication 20 years later, “We had noticed a lot of the deaths and injuries were preventable, almost like low-hanging fruit,” Teele said. “It wasn’t the big catastrophic events; it was more the things like excessive speed when responding to fires, inadequate training of apparatus operators.” At the time Burnacini and Teele probably didn’t grasp what a profound effect the publication would have for firefighter safety for present and future generations.
NFPA 1500 was established to specify minimum fire service criteria in a variety of areas including emergency operations, facility safety, apparatus safety, critical incident stress management, medical/physical requirements, member fitness/wellness, and use of PPE. The NFPA 1500 acts as a gold standard for OSHA concerns since the publication was written by a technical committee of individuals representing various interests from a wide spectrum of the fire service. Learning from previous publications that faced limited adoption and adherence in the firehouse, the architects Brunacini and Teele were careful to involve committee members of all ranks in the fire service including fire chiefs, company officers, firefighters, volunteer representatives, as well as representatives from various fire service equipment manufacturers.
At the publication’s core it provides firefighting personnel with a standard set of guidelines to establish, implement, and manage a comprehensive safety and health program. The NFPA 1500 is divided into ten individual chapters and 328 individual sections. The short list of basic requirements that the publication mandates firefighting organizations establish are:
A distinction between the NFPA 1500 and previous safety manuals is the establishment of a designated fire department health and safety officer. The publication guideline is remarkably different from previous manuals in that it sets up an accountable person to administer and adhere to the standard. The safety officer’s tasks include:
In the data collected since the final adoption of the standard in 1997, researchers have cited that the appointment of the safety officer has dramatically increased the adherence to NFPA 1500.
The environment in which firefighters work comes with a sense of accomplishment that few have experienced. However, with the reward also comes a level of risk for injury or death. As we have learned over the decades these risks can be minimized through the adoption of safety measures, proper training of personnel tactics, and utilization of guidelines found within NFPA 1500. One of the architects behind the publication, Bruce Teele is hopeful for the continued adherence to firefighter safety: “Maybe there are still some people who looked back on the ‘good old days’ of the ’60s and early ’70s, but they’re being outnumbered by the new people coming through, who have the attitude of, ‘Why wouldn’t you wear the appropriate PPE?”. This attitude, coupled with the direction of proper guidance, has helped save countless firefighters’ lives, and will continue to do so for year to come.
Founded in 1990, BME has been engineering state of the art fire apparatuses for nearly 30 years. We are dedicated to building durable, quality fire trucks that ensure firefighter safety for decades. BME is committed to making sure firefighters have equipment that works when they need it, so we pride ourselves in doing the job right, not taking shortcuts, and producing the most reliable and durable fire vehicles on the market.
We directly manufacture our products, so you can be sure that our team of engineers can custom fit any fire truck apparatus. Constantly striving to raise the bar, BME’s fire apparatuses are built to provide firefighters with the utmost safety. For more information, contact us today.
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Just as the record breaking 2017 fire season came to a close, fiscal year 2018 began. Although the new fiscal year began on October 1st, Congress was unable to agree on a budget. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress and the President signed and passed a continuing resolution (CR) on September 8th to allow funding for federal agencies to remain at similar levels to what was enacted for fiscal year 2017. While operations continue as normal, agencies have been instructed not to start new projects under the newly minted CR. As US lawmakers mull over the proposed 2018 budget, a planned spending reduction in firefighting efforts is drawing criticism from both sides of the isle.
Despite the fact that the President’s proposed budget would cut the US Forest Service’s spending by $970 million, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell’s supports the proposal. Democratic and Republican senators both criticised Tidwell, citing one of the worst fire seasons on record, with Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Oregon and Washington all declaring a state of emergency and suffering significant loss of property and life. Facing such criticism, Chief Tom Tidwell acknowledged that President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget plan proposes very difficult reductions in some very important programs, but said that it will let the Forest Service focus on the “highest-priority” work while supporting state fire suppression activities. Understandably, the notion of cutting the budget of a federal agency so integral to saving both property and life following record-setting natural disasters seems incredulous. However, as most debates in Congress go, it’s important to read through the rhetoric and understand how these proposed reductions affect those in the firefighting community.
One thing is clear, the cost of fighting fires in the United States has continually increased year over year and shows no sign of decreasing under current suppression methodologies. A report by the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service’s parent agency, estimated that the service dedicated just 16 percent of its 1995 budget to firefighting. That grew to 52 percent of its budget in 2015 and is expected to rise to 67 percent by 2025. Tidwell contended that President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget recognizes the need for current and additional staff to provide the resources that are necessary for the service to maintain the current success rate of suppressing 98 percent of fires during the initial attack phase.
Source: “The rising cost of Wildfire operations.”, 2015. Effects on the Forest Service’s Non-Fire Work: United States Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C., United States.
Despite the call for the Forest Service to reduce overall staffing by 5.7%, wildland fire personnel in the Forest Service would remain the same. The current staffing model shows a total of around 10,000 personnel, including 67 Interagency Hotshot Crews, 7,940 other firefighters, 320 Smokejumpers, and 400 Fire Prevention Technicians. Total fire suppression efforts would be funded at the 10-year average.
As for the Department of Interior, however, the agency’s employees will not be spared. The 2018 budget request for the DOI’s discretionary Department-wide Wildland Fire Management program is $873.5 million. This is a decrease of $118.3 million, or 12 percent, from fiscal year 2017. It would mean a reduction in Full Time Equivalent employees (FTE) from 3,586 to 3,401, or 5 percent. Moreover, the DOI’s contribution to the Joint Fire Science Program, a program designed to fund scientific research on wildland fires, would be cut in half, totaling $3 million annually. The latter will have a direct impact on small scientific communities like those in Missoula, Montana. “In Missoula, you’re looking at significant cuts in Forest Service research spending,” said Andy Stahl of the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “That includes the Joint Fire Science Research budget that gets zeroed out. The one place that’s not cut is inventory and monitoring counting trees. We will just stop studying them and just count.” Closer to the firefighting community, Roxanne Warneke-Preston whose late husband was a wildland firefighter killed in the line of duty in 2013 wrote: “I worry about the fate of so many others if the federal government cuts $118 million for fire suppression and firefighting, because this funding is vital to protect communities surrounded by wildland areas.”
The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget aims to reduce costs while attempting to suppress increasing wildfires and recover from a record 2017 fire season. To meet these objectives there will need to be concessions made by both Republicans and Democrats to achieve this goal. In the firefighting community, this equates to having the staff, vehicles and equipment necessary to safely fight the stem of fires that grip the country in the long summer months. Let’s hope for our sake the two sides reach an amicable deal.
Although the reduced budget may create some limitations for agencies and fire departments, there are some workarounds. Boise Mobile Equipment, for example, a leading manufacturer of fire apparatuses located in Boise, Idaho, has existing fire apparatus contracts with the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the General Services Administration. The significance of these contracts is that fire departments and other agencies have the ability to “tag-on” to these contracts, giving them access to competitively low pricing and the ability to avoid long bidding processes when purchasing fire apparatuses. “Tagging-on” means to add your purchase order for a fire apparatus to an existing purchase order related to a pre-existing contract.
If your department is interested in tagging-on to either of these contracts, contact BME today.
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In the aftermath of Northern California’s most recent wildfires, which torched roughly 250,000 acres of wine country and other locations, Californian utility company PG&E has come under intense scrutiny. Concerns have arisen about the company’s possible negligence, namely downed power lines and sloppy upkeep of foliage near their equipment in some areas, may have caused or contributed to the blaze and exacerbated the disaster.
As a result, California lawmakers are exploring a new set of rules and standards that could be implemented as early as mid-December. No decision has yet been made on such standards, as State agencies are still investigating to find the root cause of the blaze. However, the following policies are being explored.
Currently, California utility companies must abide by strict rules and practices in areas that have already been declared hazardous by state fire agencies. However, those areas are located in Southern California, leaving the northern reaches of the state without the same levels of protection. A new assessment of the affected regions, which suffered more than 40 deaths and potentially billions of dollars in property damage last month, could very well result in these measures being extended into northern regions.
The Public Utilities Commission will deliberate on the content of any adjustments to the requirements that utility companies must meet. It’s probable that such adjustments will include stepped-up patrols of areas likely to be impacted by fires. A set timetable for these inspections would ensure that they are faithfully performed as frequently as mandated, preventing any short-changing of the process.
Also in consideration is a dramatic increase in the required space between vegetation and power lines. Electric utilities are currently required to trim back tree branches from their lines, the minimum acceptable distance being determined by the voltage running through them. For instance, as it stands now, many rural distribution lines must have at least four feet of clearance. Under the proposed rules, lines running through areas that are at high risk for fires would now require a full 12 feet of radial clearance.
These measures, though not fireproof, can serve to reduce the risk of future catastrophes such as the one last October that decimated much of Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
The proposed regulations would certainly be a step in the right direction for the safety of all concerned. The downside is that PG&E and other companies will likely appeal to the Utilities Commission for rate hikes to offset the costs of compliance with any new regulations as well as any fines they are required to pay if found liable for last month’s fires.
As California’s state agencies, businesses, and citizens hammer out details on what should be done and to what measure, achieving a consensus is a challenge. A workshop last June was intended to establish clear standards and practices, but of the 31 proposals discussed, only two were agreed upon.
Regardless of how these proposed policies, safety rules, and standards take shape, these fires have successfully caught the attention of all the state fire and forestry agencies as well as the utilities commission. Californians can expect some degree of policy change for the utility industry’s responsibilities in the near future.
Each year, over 800,000 individuals die by suicide worldwide. 40,000 of those individuals are citizens of the United States. Among the figures compiled by the World Health Organization a subset of individuals within the group of people taking their own life is emerging: first responders.
Over the past decade, there’s been an acknowledgement within America’s first responders community that suicide and attempted suicide has become more prevalent. As the numbers of those at-risk individuals continue to grow, so too does the concern to quickly understand why this phenomenon is occurring. This alarming trend of suicides among first responders has been has been attributed to several causes, mainly post-traumatic stress disorder.
First responder suicides are sometimes compared to those among military veterans, many of whom have also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, according to report by the International Association of Fire Fighters, almost 20 percent of firefighters and paramedics have some form of PTSD, compared with the general population’s rate of 3.5 percent. Depression, addiction, and a difficulty to express the horrific patient calls that firefighters undergo are all reasons cited for the increase in suicides.
The data suggests that the phenomena of firefighters taking their own lives is a recent trend. A 1979 study by A.W. Musk found rates of firefighter suicide deaths comparable to that of the general population. However, more recent evidence suggests higher rates among firefighters. A 2016 nationwide survey of 1027 current and retired firefighters in the United States by L.H. Stanley compared those results with the 1979 Musk study. What Stanley found was that there was an increase in rates of suicidal thoughts (46.8%), plans to commit suicide (19.2%), and actual attempts (15.5%). Additionally, according to a 2015 article published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services a survey of more than 4,000 first responders found that 6.6 percent had attempted suicide. This is more than 10 times the rate of attempted suicides in the general population, a notably rapid increase from previous years. These findings align with anecdotal reports from fire departments and national fire service organizations that suicide is prevalent within the fire service and must be addressed.
Rising awareness of PTSD among firefighters has prompted several groups to start looking more closely at these deaths in recent years. In 2011, a group called the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance was founded by Jeff Dill, a retired Illinois fire captain turned Licensed Professional Counselor. The FBHA’s goal is to provide behavioral health workshops to fire departments and EMS organizations to focus on behavioral health awareness. Dill hopes that this classroom and counseling strategy will help prevent suicide by promoting resources available to firefighters and their families. Jeff Dill emphasized that when symptoms occur, they need a support system in place that is readily accessible from someone who is qualified and truly understands his or her circumstances. In addition to addressing firefighter suicide the FBHA also offers courses in behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety and addiction for those that serve and their families.
Another organization, the Code Green Campaign, was founded in 2014 when a group of first responders in Washington decided to post anonymous stories from other first responders about their personal struggles. The goal of posting the stories is the hope that sharing the horrific tales will circumvent the stigma that prevents many from talking about personal matters with their crews. Code Green’s goal is to bring awareness to the high rates of mental health issues in first responders and reduce them as well as to educate first responders on self and peer care to bring about systemic change on how mental health issues are addressed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues due to PTSD please do not hesitate to reach out to these agencies or find local resources to get the help you or your loved one needs.
The Phoenix Fire Department and the firefighting community lost an invaluable member on October 15th, 2017. The family of former Phoenix Fire Chief Alan Brunacini announced his passing on Sunday. As news of Al’s passing spread through firehouses and halls an outpouring of praise came from industry leaders across the country whom Al provided guidance and inspiration. Fire Engineering Editor in Chief and FDIC International Education Director Bobby Halton said, “One of the most incredible lights that ever burned in the fire service has gone out forever. A totally unique and one-of-a kind giant, innovator, and spiritual leader has left us better and stronger than we ever could have been without him. He changed the face of the fire service forever, and we loved him and will miss him.”
Alan Brunacini was the commensurate firefighter. “Bruno”, as he was affectionately referred to, served as a firefighter, lecturer, author to over 9 books, and a true fire service pioneer. Brunacini started his fire career at the Phoenix Fire Department in 1958. Al’s simple, common-sense, and humorous method to problem solving quickly allowed him to progress through the firehouse ranks. Brunacini held every sworn position in the Phoenix fire organization including a firefighter, engineer, captain, assistant chief, and battalion chief where he served as fire chief for 28 years before retiring in 2006. Academically, Al held a BS and an MPA from Arizona State University as well as a graduating from the Fire Protection Technology program at Oklahoma State University. Al also served as the Chairman of the Board of the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA Career Fire Service Career Organization, and developer of the NFPA Fire Service Occupational Safety Committee.
Arguably the most important contribution that Bruno has bestowed onto future generations of fire service professionals were his presentations, workshops, seminars, and conferences to many fire departments throughout the country. He spoke on countless occasions about topics ranging from firefighter safety to citizen customer service. Bruno’s contributions to present and future emergency personnel knowledge has manifested into experiences such as the one from AJ Heightman of JEMS, the journal of emergency medical services. He summarized one of Bruno’s sessions he attended: “As a young EMS director in Eastern Pennsylvania and the son of a fire captain, I knew how disorganized scenes could be. Bruno emphasized safe, effective and efficient fire service operations and administration. This also meant performing emergency medical services within the fire service enthusiastically and as a major part of the job. Bruno emphasized doing whatever it took to meet the needs of the “customer,” even if it meant boarding up windows, replacing damaged caused by extinguishing a fire, or cooking them a meal. Perhaps most important, being fully transparent about the challenges of 21st century firefighting with elected officials and the public about the men and women who worked for them”.
While some fire professionals have commented mostly on the tactical contributions, others have reflected on the humanistic part of Bruno’s legacy. Chief Rick Lasky of the Lewisville, Texas Fire Department, said, “If you’re lucky, you have the opportunity in life to meet people who change your life forever. Chief Alan Brunacini changed mine. He was more than just a mentor. He was a good friend, someone I looked up to and always will. But even more than that, he made a difference in the lives of firefighters everywhere. He was an incredible leader, a trend setter, and a mentor. He was kind, loved his family, and will be loved by our great fire service forever.” One of his colleagues at the FDIC board commented, “He was always a ‘gentleman’ with a warm heart who would stop and chat as if you were a long-lost friend, no matter what fire service rank you held. There were no frills to his appearance or demeanor, just a simple “Hawaiian” style shirt that set the tone” said Jack J. Murphy, fellow FE/FDIC Board member.
Chief Brunacini, through his articles, books and instruction, had an uncanny ability to reach all ranks of emergency service personnel with the message that despite your level in the organization you must follow the ‘Golden Rule’. That is treat others inside and outside of the firehouse as they would want to be treated. Bruno’s philosophies on customer service, building better more efficient apparatus, and incident command were taught through example with the goal of improving the fire service.
Chief Brunacini’s impact on the fire service cannot be overstated. His foresight and influence have touched virtually every aspect of fire service, and have dramatically, and permanently, changed it for the better. More importantly, Chief Brunacini impacted every person who met him with his kindness, sense of humor, and humility were disarming. Those who benefited from his legacy are grateful and thankful to be working in a profession that he helped build. His impact on the fire industry is impossible to quantify and he will surely be loved within the community for years to come.
The 2017 fire season has been one of the worst in US history, especially for California. During the most intense period beginning in early October and continuing until the end of the month, eight counties in Northern California were hit by a devastating outbreak of wildfires which led to over 40 fatalities, nearly 250,000 scorched acres and nearly 9,000 structures destroyed. The blazes burned through communities, literally turning homes and businesses into dust. The estimated 20,000 Northern Californian residents who evacuated towns and cities told stories of narrow escapes from fires that erupted and forced them to flee even before text messages and other alerts were sent out by emergency warning systems. Those that were lucky enough to escape returned to what is left of their homes, businesses, and farms.
The California Department of Insurance said that as of October 26, losses reported from 15 major insurers totaled $3.3 billion, including residential and commercial property, personal and commercial auto, agriculture and watercraft. Farmers who lost both their homes and crops suffered the most during and after the smoke settled.
Early estimates have revealed that the 2017 fires have consumed nearly 200,000 acres of farm land. This was likely a cause for concern for many, as the multi-billion dollar industry employs many workers in the area. In Napa Valley alone, wineries and vineyards employ almost half of the county’s workforce. However, the wine industry was largely spared as most of the wine region’s grapes had been harvested when the fires started in early October. Moreover, the blazes did not linger at the vineyards due to the implementation of fire breaks and the practice of keeping wine rows free of grasses.
Cannabis farmers in Sonoma County and Mendocino County, the center of California’s recently legalized $21 billion marijuana industry, were not so lucky. Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, has said that at least 30 farms had significant crop losses. Allen says that the cannabis farmers’ situation is exacerbated because insurance policies for marijuana crops are virtually nonexistent and since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, California growers are not permitted to put cash from their sales into banks. This has left farm owners of small-scale operations who put their life savings into a farm looking for alternatives to state and municipal fire suppression.
The swift and effective reaction from California’s emergency services has no doubt saved many lives and properties as these fires flourished in conditions of high winds and dry heat amidst a drought. The agency responsible to fight the 2017 fires in Northern California, CAL FIRE, had the monumental task of preserving life and property during the ordeal. As the fires raged, CAL FIRE quickly experienced a staffing shortage of personnel rigged with vehicles rated for rough terrain and capable of such extreme firefighting conditions. The agency quickly turned to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho for help. NIFC then deployed equipment and personnel from Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oregon, as well as teams from as far away as Canada and Australia.
Unfortunately, citizens weren’t the only casualties during the wildfires. Volunteer firefighter Garrett Paiz who was driving a privately owned water tender down Oakville Grade in the area around the Nuns fire, was killed when the tender careened out of control down the steep grade.
It is extremely important in extreme conditions that firefighting personnel are equipped with the correct vehicles to safely fight fires. That is why Boise Mobile Equipment (BME) is dedicated to manufacturing safe, grade tested and durable fire apparatuses. Founded in 1990, BME has been providing fire departments nationwide with state of the art fire apparatuses for nearly 30 years. Most well known for building quality wildland fire apparatuses, agencies like CAL FIRE, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service have recognized BME’s superior craftmanship. BME has recently been awarded a multi-million dollar contracts to produce dozens of wildland firefighting apparatuses for CAL FIRE and the USDA, Forest Service, with tag-on options available. As an industry leader in wildland fire apparatus engineering, BME is dedicated to providing agencies with custom design options, superior craftsmanship, and rugged durability that puts firefighter safety as the number one priority. If your department is in need of a custom fire apparatus or is interested in tagging on to one of our existing contracts with CAL FIRE or the Forest Service, contact us today.
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Boise Mobile Equipment (BME), a fire apparatus manufacturer located in Boise, Idaho, is expanding its facilities and its product lines. Known best for being the industry leader in the wildland market, BME has just acquired two new warehouses: one 25,000 square feet, and one 50,000 square feet, to meet increasing demand and to produce innovative new firefighting vehicles.
The expansion came as BME locked in a $10 million contract with CAL FIRE for the production of over 30 wildland fire apparatuses. Since then, several additional fire departments have “tagged on” to this contract. To further add to this increasing demand, BME recently won another contract with the USDA Forest Service, which is expected to reach roughly $11 million after final adjustments (a formal announcement on this will be released soon).
BME has also partnered up with Sutphen, an Ohio-based fire engine manufacturer, as part of Sutphen’s dealer program. The program will allow BME to sell and service Sutphen aerials and pumpers for fire departments in the Western US.
BME expects the extra 75,000 square feet of space within its two new facilities to help meet this increasing demand.
The warehouses will also be used for the production of new firefighting vehicles: BME’s new lines of rescue boats and UTVs.
BME’s rescue boats feature twin 2,000 GPH automatic bilge pumps, dual Simrad display, a FLIR Infrared CameraGPS, Twin Akron 3462 Front Monitors, a Darley HE 64RS “Hercules” Portable Pump, and much more.
BME’s UTVs are built by Mahindra Rise with a 1,000 CC Diesel Kohler Engine, and custom installed parts including a 3 Stage Waterax Striker 3 Pump – 73 GPM @ 150 psi, 56 GPM @ 200 psi, 33 GPM @ 250 psi, a 100’ Cox hose and reel, and much more.
Boise Mobile Equipment is a top-quality fire apparatus manufacturer dedicated to providing customers with individualized design options, exceptional craftsmanship, and rugged durability. For more information on BME’s recent expansions, call us at (800) 445-8342.
In August, 2017, Boise Mobile Equipment (BME) partnered up with Sutphen Corporation as part of the Sutphen dealer network program, becoming its official sales and service representative in the Western United States.
Sutphen, a large family owned fire apparatus manufacturing corporation based in Ohio, was actively seeking a dealer in the Western United States. “After meeting with leadership from Boise Mobile, listening to their passion for the business, and spending time with them at the Sutphen facility, it was clear that this organization had all of the attributes we were looking for” said Zach Rudy, director of sales and marketing at Sutphen Corporation.
The two manufacturers agreed that BME would be the official Sutphen dealer for fire apparatus sales in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. This means that Boise Mobile Equipment will fulfill orders for the manufacturing of Sutphen fire apparatuses to fire departments in the western region.
Boise Mobile Equipment has been in business since 1990 in Boise, Idaho. Today, BME is known as a premier manufacturer of Type 3, 4, and 6 wildland firefighting vehicles. In addition, it also manufactures a wide variety of command vehicles for the law enforcement and fire industries along with tenders and rescues. In addition to its facility in Boise, BME focuses on servicing its customers with service centers up and down the western US and mobile technicians to service customers on site at their fire stations.
If you’re in need of a Sutphen dealer or a BME fire apparatus, contact us today by filling out the form below or calling us at (800) 445-8342.
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Sacramento, CA: Boise Mobile Equipment (BME) has been awarded roughly $10 million to produce over thirty Type-III wildland firefighting apparatuses for the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as CAL FIRE. “Tag-on” opportunities are available to California fire departments, which allow them to save time, money and effort in purchasing fire equipment and machinery.
“Tagging-on” is a common method used by fire departments during the purchasing process. Rather than undergo the traditional bidding process, which can often take up to a year, fire departments are able to “tag-on” to another department’s purchase order, allowing them to add their own purchases to the existing order. By tagging on to BME’s purchase order, fire departments are able to get their fire apparatus in a fast, efficient and cost-effective way.
Boise Mobile Equipment is a fire truck manufacturer located in Boise, Idaho who has been servicing the nation’s fire, police, and emergency response professionals since 1990. BME fire apparatuses are manufactured to perform in rough terrain and extreme firefighting conditions. BME is dedicated to providing departments with custom design options, superior craftsmanship, and rugged durability. BME offers various types of emergency vehicles including pumpers, tenders, rescues, Wildland Type 3’s, 4’s and 6’s, and a variety of command vehicles. In addition, BME provides equipment and services to law enforcement with its command vehicles, complete up-fitting, and K-9 units.
Aside from its work with CAL FIRE, BME has manufactured fire apparatus for the US Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS) and multiple municipal and county fire departments throughout the United States.
If your department is interested in tagging on, contact email@example.com or call 800-445-8342 to be connected with a factory sales representative.
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Like all modern day technology, tremendous changes have taken place throughout history of fire engines. Before it had sirens, a hose and dozens of knobs, gauges, buttons and switches, the fire engine had small, minimal features.
Fire engines began to appear in the mid 17th century, but they were simply tubs of water that were transported to fire sights on wheels or runners. The tubs were large reservoirs full of water with a hand pump and nozzle to fill buckets of water. Fire fighters then filled the water buckets and dumped them on the fire, often at close quarters with the fire. In 1672, a leather-stitched hose with a nozzle end was invented to allow firefighters to put out the fire from a safer distance and with greater precision. At around the same time, technology was invented for firefighters to pump water from nearby rivers, ponds and lakes.
In the early 1800s, larger hoses about 50 feet long were manufactured with brass fittings to allow firefighters the ability to feed the hose through windows, up stairways, and at further distances to allow them to put out fires from a closer, but safer distance while the pump was operated in the street. In 1829, steam-pump fire engine were developed and became widely used by the mid to late 1800s. In fact, steam-pump fire engines were used in the great Chicago fire of 1871.
Fire engines first became motorized sometime after the internal-combustion engine was developed and commercialized for automobiles in the 1870’s. However, the first motorized fire engines had two engines, one to drive the vehicle and another to pump water. Pumpers were first developed with a single engine for propelling both the vehicle and water in 1907 in the US. By 1925, motorized pumpers had completely replaced steam-pump fire engines. Originally powered by pistons, the pumps had been replaced by rotary pumps and then centrifugal pumps, which are now modern practice.
Today fire engines are packed with fire and rescue equipment, including hoses, ladders, self-contained breathing apparatus, ventilating equipment, first aid kits and hydraulic rescue tools. They are also up-fitted with sirens, lights and communications equipment such as two-way radios and mobile computers. With all of it’s first aid and emergency equipment, fire engines are commonly used for purposes other than firefighting, such as emergency response.
Light Rescue Squads and a Type 6 Brush Truck delivered July 2017. All six vehicles were delivered from our Southern California delivery center, Performance Truck Repair in Azusa.
– Dodge Ram® 4500 Diesel, 4×4 Crew Cab
– Aluminum Custom Rescue Body
– Custom enclosed longitudinal ladder and basket storage
Type-6 Brush Truck
– Dodge Ram® 5500 Diesel, 4×4 Crew Cab
– Aluminum Custom Body
– Darley / Odin Derringer CAFS Fire Suppression System
– Custom longitudinal top dunnage compartments for hose, ladder and hard suction storage
A special thank you to the group of homeschooled children from the Treasure Valley area who came by to visit BME Fire Trucks yesterday!
After a tour through the factory, they were taken on a ride in a Wildland Type 4 engine. Such fun for all of us!
The application period for the Fiscal Year 2016 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program runs from October 11th through November 18th. The AFG program helps fire departments, nonaffiliated EMS departments, and state fire training academies get equipment, training, PPE, vehicles, and other gear they may not be able to get otherwise due to financial constraints.
More information about grants and grant-writing is available at the page for Assistance for Firefighters Grant page: https://www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant
Boise Mobile Equipment and Extendobed attended this year’s FireShowsWest Fire Service Conference and Expo at the Reno Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. Thank you to FireShowsWest for putting together a great conference, and to all the Expo visitors who came by to view our engines and demo equipment!
Displayed for BME was the Type 3 Wildland Urban Interface Pumper (courtesy of Antelope Valley Fire Department), Type 6 Multi-Platform, and Commander ICV, and for Extendobed, their demo van showcased custom slide-out options. For any questions regarding the demo vehicles, please contact BME at (800) 445-8342, and for Extendobed (800) 752-0706.
Boise Mobile Equipment runs a Mobile Service Vehicle! Our EVT Certified Technicians are available to bring repair and maintenance services to local fire houses. BME’s Service Department also offers a wide range of fabrication, major and minor repair, refurbishment, retrofitting, and inspection services.
Call us at (800) 445-8342 !!