Month: December 2017

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

northern california wildfire

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

congress 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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The Nightclub Fire Tragedy that Influenced Health and Safety Codes Today

In November of 1942 as World War II persisted in Eastern Europe and President Franklin Roosevelt waited anxiously to hear about the progress of a Los Alamos nuclear lab, a group of revelers met on a cold Boston night to celebrate.  It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the mood was festive as an estimated thousand people crowded into a club in the Bay Village area of Boston called Cocoanut Grove.  At around 10:15, the pianist Goody Goodelle performed on a revolving stage adorned in artificial palm trees in the dimly lit Melody Lounge downstairs.  Official reports state that a possible origin of the fire at the Cocoanut Grove stemmed from a match lit by Stanley Tomaszewski, a 16-year-old busboy, to investigate an extinguished low-powered light bulb that was used to illuminate the basement lounge.  The flames that emanated from that match were to set off a series of horrific events that would lead to 492 people, 166 injured, and the infamous title of the deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history.

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Holidays are Lowest for Wildfires, but Prime Time for House Fires

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.

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Fire Chief Resigns Over Municipality’s Failure to Replace Unsafe Apparatus

firefighter turnouts and gear

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.

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Briefing: December 2017 Southern California Wildfires

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 powerline malfunctions has facilitated the growth of fires by igniting vast amounts of dry vegetation.

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Montana Wildfires of 2017

montana wildfire

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.  

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Families of Northern California Fire Victims Suing PG&E (Can Firefighters be held Liable?)

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.

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