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Month: March 2018

Reading Smoke Signals: How Firefighters Use Smoke Signals

Firefighters Reading and Understanding smoke signals

One of the most important skills all firemen should possess is the ability to read smoke. The ability to read the smoke at any position within the company can help those responding to the incident make better tactical decisions.

Smoke can help first responders determine the fire’s location, growth, toxicity, the direction of travel. In the case of a structure fire, it helps us predict hostile fire events like smoke explosions, backdrafts, and flashovers.  “Reading smoke can tell us what is happening now and, more importantly, what is going to happen in the future,” said author the author of The Art of Reading Smoke, David W. Dodson. “Watching how fast it is changing can tell if we have seconds or minutes before something happens.”

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How to Justify Your Fire Budget When Seeking Government Aid

type 6 ocfa

Institutions like well-funded schools and effective law enforcement are often a gauge for the value and health of any community. They attract business that is essential for growth and stability. For many communities, the public coffers are limited and desperate, forcing these public institutions to compete for dollars in any way they can. They’re using advanced metrics to justify their budgets while committees use these metrics to judge the institution’s value to the community. Throw in other concerns, such as real estate values and insurance premiums, and you can have a very complex system to measure the effectiveness and value of what one organization brings to the community.

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How to Recruit More Volunteer Firefighters

The first organized volunteer firefighting service has a rich history dating back to early Eighteenth century in Boston.  In 1711 the Mutual Fire Societies was formed to combat the ever growing presence of destructive fires in the fast growing English Colonies.  The early group of volunteers was described by Benjamin Franklin, a prominent volunteer firefighter, as “a club or society of active men belonging to each fire engine, whose business is to attend all fires with it whenever they happen.”  The premise was simple, when fire emerged from a member of the Mutual Fire Society’s dwelling, other members of the club mobilized into organized units to battle the blaze.  Each society had approximately twenty members and is credited with being the first volunteer brigade of firefighters. As residents sought further protection from fire, statesman such as Franklin took notice.  Franklin’s progressive thought aimed to provide whole communities the advantage of protecting all the property of the community. Formed in Philadelphia, each group of volunteers banded together in small groups of 30.  The demographics of group volunteers represented the diversity that the city was experiencing in the early 1700s, consisting of professionals, merchants, and trades people. The volunteer departments paid for their own equipment and placed it in advantageous places close to a source of water and other firefighting infrastructure.  All groups were aligned with protecting their collective interests in the community and staffing was adequate.

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Types of Fire Engines and Their Importance

Custom Fire Apparatus built by Boise Mobile Equipment

Fire engines have advanced throughout the last four centuries. The first fire engines were human-propelled water pumps with no room for personnel. Around the end of the 1800s, the threat of fire within densely populated areas brought about paid firefighters equipped with horses to pull the early apparatus.  The modern-day fire engine emerged in the 1960s armed with water pumps, a reservoir, and enclosed seats for the crew. 

 As the fire threats began to change, so did the specialization of the fire engine. 

What are the different types of fire engines?

Taking a look at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, it classifies the vehicles by type and function. This is important because it created universal fire truck standards and terminology to help fire departments find an apparatus that will fit their needs.

Fire Engine Types and Classification:

Type 1 Fire Engine

A Type 1 fire truck, typically responds to structural fires and is the most common type of fire truck in use today. Densely populated areas depend on a Type 1 fire apparatus to efficiently maneuver to the call and deploy an array of ladders to reach fires in elevated buildings.

A typical custom pumper holds around 400 to 500 gallons of water.  Oftentimes the amount of water needed to extinguish the fire cannot be supplied by the tank alone. Finding a reliable water supply is one of the most fundamental operations when arriving on the fire scene.

In addition, Type 1 pumpers are equipped to carry up to 4 firefighters. Commonly found on these apparatus are SCBA’s, chainsaws, circular saws, and many different types of specialized equipment dependent on the department’s needs.

Type 2 Fire Engine

commerical pumper

A Type 2 fire truck features many of the same specifications and tools as the Type 1 fire truck. They are also the typical truck seen in a suburban area responding to structural fires. 

Commercial pumpers are more compact but still holds the same amount of equipment as Type 1. Typically seen first on the scene to start fire extinguishing tasks until more support arrives.

Type 2 pumpers typically carries 3 or 4 firefighters. Commonly found on these apparatus are SCBA’s, chainsaws, circular saws, and many different types of specialized equipment dependent on the department’s needs.

Type of Wildland Fire Engines

A Type 3, Type 4, and Type 6 are what are considered “wildland engines” or “brush trucks.” These are the vehicles that respond to wildfires and have the ability to drive in rough terrain to respond to a fire or rescue.  

Wildland engines are specially designed for the technique of pump-and-roll.  This is a tactic where the vehicle drives with the pump engaged while a firefighter uses a hose to spray water on the fire.

Type 3 Fire Engine

type 3 wildland fire engine

Type 3 has four-wheel drives to make driving over rough terrain easier and has a maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 26,000 lbs.  The minimum number of personnel a Type 3 must carry is 3.

Type 3 brush trucks are required to have a minimum of 500 US gallons of water and pump 150 US gallons per minute at a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch. Type 3 and Type 4 often look similar to one another. However, the biggest difference is their minimum personnel and tank capacities.

Type 4 Fire Engine

type 4 fish and wildlfie

Type 4 Wildland engine is similar to a Type 3 but with very important differences. Type 4 are used to drive over rough terrain and weighs 26,000 lbs, but it sacrifices a smaller pump and less hose for a larger 750-gallon tank. The Type 4 standard of pumping is 50 US gallons per minute at a pressure of 100 pounds per square inch. The minimum number of personnel a Type 4 must carry is 2.

Type 5, Type 6, and Type 7 Fire Engine

type 6 engine

Type 5, 6, & 7 are usually built specifically for the department’s needs. These vehicles are typically pick-up truck-based with 4-wheel drive.

These engines are often seen in both wildland and suburban settings. These fire engines have a much smaller configuration than a typical Type 3 or 4 engine.  

The smaller body still allows the department to carry 50 to 400 gallons of water with the maneuverability and accessibility that you don’t have in Type 3 or 4.  

Types 5 through 7 are used heavily for the initial fire suppression response, and their GVWR’s are rated in ascending order from 26,000 lbs in Type 5 engines to 14,000 on Type 7. This engine classification is designed to hold a minimum of 2 people and carry hose diameters ranging from 1 inch to 1 ½ inch.

Conclusion

As a general rule of thumb, fire engine types are specified from largest to smallest size, Types 1-2 being the largest to carry large pumps and ladders for structure fires, and Types 5-7 being the smallest for navigating rough wildland terrain. Type 3 and 4 engines are mid-sized engines built both for wildland mobility and large water capacity. The general difference between these two is that Type 4 engines have much larger water tanks than Type 3 engines.

Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Firefighters in full PPE putting out a fire

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) releases studies, each year, on firefighter deaths and injuries.  An important part of the yearly study helps better understand how these fatalities and injuries occur to help minimize the risks of firefighting. A recurring reason cited in the study is the incorrect use of or absence of firefighting personal protective equipment (PPE). 

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Fire Chiefs: How to Set Your Fire Department Apart From the Rest

firefighter teamwork

The process of recruiting, selecting, and retaining talent in a fire organization is one of the most difficult challenges a leader can face.  Everyone has read or experienced first-hand a story about successfully hiring a recruit and then having the probationary firefighter get hurt within his first days of employment, experience irreconcilable performance issues, or worst of all, bring discredit to the department who they were sworn to protect.  To avoid the unnecessary waste of time, money, and resources devoted to hiring individuals who will not be a good fit, a statement of principles attached to your recruitment process is essential. A statement of principles in its simplest form is a set of beliefs that define your department values and overall philosophy. These standards set by the leadership of the department enable desirable recruits to gain vital transparency on how your department sets itself apart from other fire organizations.  Implementing a set of organizational principles now will also help influence your current talent to start embodying the culture that other firefighters will want to be a part of for years to come. As always, the values that you set out for your department must be those that you hold dear and are ultimately held accountable to as well. The statement of principles you define for your department can be as varied as the individuals you set out to influence, here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider.

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How to Improve Diversity in Your Fire Department and Why It’s Important

firefighters diversity

Demographic trends indicate that women and minorities are the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. workforce. As of 2012, women accounted for nearly half of the workforce, while minorities made up 36 percent of the workforce. However, this growth is not reflected in the fire service industry.  According to the NFPA, women made up just over 3 percent of firefighters, while minorities made up less than 20 percent. As people of different nationalities, religions, and genders choose the fire service for a career, fire organizational leadership and firefighters themselves must adapt to the changing demographic of the communities they serve.

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