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Firefighters

Community Honors Idaho Fallen Firefighters

idaho fallen firefighters statue by rusty talbot
A bronze statue, created by Idaho artist Agnes Vincent "Rusty" Talbot, stands at the center of the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Plaza where communities from across Idaho gather to remember the firefighters who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

Firefighters from across Idaho gathered on Friday, September 6 to remember and honor their fallen comrades at the annual Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony. Both the ceremony and its venue, the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park, were steeped in time-honored tradition, a moving tribute to the men and women who sacrificed everything to protect their communities.

The ceremony opened to the rousing call of pipes and drums. The Boise Fire Department Pipe & Drum Band and a statewide honor guard filed down the greenway to raise the flags of country, state, and community, marching past a wall of names. Speakers took the podium to honor and reflect upon the legacy of those names.

“They were the epitome of humility when it came to doing the job they did,” said Boise Fire Department Chief Dennis Doan. “Never wanting to bring the spotlight of attention on themselves for their work protecting others.”

It is only fitting, then, that they be honored and remembered for their selfless acts of courage. At the center of the plaza stands a life-size bronze statue of three firefighters, one fallen in the line of duty. His brothers support and mourn him. It serves as a moving representation of the unique bond shared among the fire community, and their incredible commitment and sacrifice.

idaho honor guard closes memorial ceremony
The honor guard marches back down the plaza to close the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Ceremony.
ringing the bell to honor fallen firefighters
A member of the honor guard rings a bell to pay tribute to each of Idaho's fallen firefighters.

A Legacy of Tradition

Traditions are also shared among the fire community, and several were observed in the course of the ceremony. Pipes and drums, preceded by the “ringing of the bell,” concluded the ceremony in respectful remembrance. Two bells were rung three times for each name that was read, signalling honor to those who had fallen in the line of duty. Members of the Honor Guard laid roses at the foot of the statue for each of the fallen.

firefighters memorial salute
A member of the honor guard salutes in respect after laying a rose in memory of one of Idaho's fallen firefighters.

But there are other traditions, as Coeur d’Alene Fire Department Chief Kenny Gabriel pointed out, that are better left in the past. “In my career I’ve seen huge changes…the days where wearing a breathing apparatus was a show of weakness,” he said in a call for cultivating a “culture of safety” in the fire industry. Cancer, heart disease, roadway incidents, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have claimed far too many lives, and there are more steps, he urged the community, that can be taken to prevent them. 

Indeed, PTSD and suicide are both major threats facing first responders. A Ruderman Family Foundation study found that suicides were more common among firefighters and police officers in 2017 than line-of-duty deaths. It is an issue that the nation’s fire community has been increasing their efforts to tackle by providing resources for their comrades struggling with mental health. A number of those resources are listed below, including mental health and suicide prevention hotlines.

Supporting Idaho Firefighters

Support for the fire community continues to be an important part of local and statewide organizations. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter recounted the city’s efforts in securing a riverside location for the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park eleven years ago, and extended the city’s support to the Boise Fire Training Facility. “Whatever we can do in the city of Boise to help you,” he said, “please don’t hesitate to call.” 

The Idaho Fallen Firefighters Foundation is another key supporter of the state’s firefighters. Their joint effort with the city of Boise founded the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park in 2008. Tyler Roundtree, speaking at this park more than a decade later, summed up the foundation’s mission: “We believe it is our goal to touch the hearts of all family members, supporting you today, and providing you the recognition you all deserve.”

Today the Idaho Fallen Firefighters Foundation continues their mission to honor the lives of firefighters who have died in the line of duty, provide support for their families, and promote the health and safety of Idaho firefighters. The organization holds community events to fund these efforts, including the annual Boise Mustache Memorial Ride

At Boise Mobile Equipment, it is the unparalleled devotion and camaraderie of the fire community that inspires us to build safe and reliable fire apparatus. We are proud to serve this industry of heroes in our state and across the nation.

Firefighter Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources

How to Justify Your Fire Budget When Seeking Government Aid

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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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Firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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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

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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

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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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Ranks and Structures of Firefighting

deputy fire chief

The fire service was developed as a paramilitary organization around 1647. A paramilitary organization is a semi-militarized organizational structure similar to those of a professional military but not actually part of the armed forces.

When firefighters are hired, they are considered recruits. They must complete a recruit academy to become probationary firefighters and remain on probation for six months. Promotions to higher ranks are determined by years of experience, test scores, and other evaluative criteria.

Here is an outline of the firefighter ranks in order:

  1. Probationary firefighter
  2. Firefighter
  3. Driver engineer
  4. Lieutenant
  5. Captain
  6. Battalion chief
  7. Assistant Chief
  8. Fire chief

Fire Department Units

Fire department units are usually divided into a few basic categories:

  1. Company
  2. Battalion
  3. Districts

Company

Two or more firefighters are organized as a team, led by a fire officer, and equipped to perform certain operational functions. This is the basic unit.

Battalion

A battalion consists of several fire stations and multiple fire companies. A battalion chief has command over each fire station’s officers and each company or unit’s officers, as well as the uniformed firefighters.

Districts

This is another division that is most often employed only in the larger departments. A district chief is usually over several battalions.

Firefighter Ranks

Here is a look at each role within the fire service and its ranks.

Probationary firefighter

The probationary firefighter is an individual that is classified as entry-level within the hierarchy. They are often still undergoing training and evaluation to determine if there is an organizational fit. The period for the probationary term may span from 6 months to one year, depending on the individual and the organization.

Firefighter

After an individual completes the probationary period, they are referred to as a firefighter. The role of firefighter is responsible for much of the actual hands-on actions during a live operation. These tasks can include but are not limited to handling hoses, operating fire-rescue equipment, and conducting a search, find, and rendering of initial first aid care to victims of the fire.

Driver/Engineer

Fire engineers are responsible for the implementation of the firefighting vehicles that respond to emergencies. They ensure that the vehicle is clean and running efficiently, perform maintenance tasks, and drive the truck. In addition to knowing the apparatus in and out, the Engineer is also responsible for knowing the location of every alarm in his jurisdiction and the location of each hydrant.

Lieutenant

Aside from overseeing apparatus operation and the crew’s responsibilities, fire lieutenants are also responsible for candidate training, daily firehouse operations, and other duties. In the absence of the captain, lieutenants may stand in as acting captains.

Captain

This firefighter is the highest-ranking on-scene responder, responsible for directing operations at the scene of a fire incident and overseeing station duties. This role requires great responsibility, and the individual must have exemplary management skills and the ability to lead firefighters.

Battalion Chief

The Battalion Chief oversees administrative tasks such as employee scheduling and ensuring all firehouses under their scope are staffed for emergencies. Due to the nature of shift-work in firefighting, one fire department could have numerous rotating Battalion Chiefs ensuring 24/7 operational readiness.

Assistant Chief

The assistant Chief helps support the Fire Chief by ensuring a high standard in operational quality free from personnel issues that could jeopardize the department’s mission. In addition, the Assistant Chief also helps the Chief with matters such as budgets, community and department programming, training, and managing the success of the fire department.

Fire Chief

This is the highest-ranking position in the fire department organization. The Chief oversees all operations and roles inside the department and works with city officials to create a safer community. A successful Chief understands the value of legal agreements, partnerships, networking, trusting and empowering others, and stepping back to look at the big picture.

All ranks have the opportunity to work their way up the ranks to the fire chief.

As firefighters advance their careers, they are likely to assume more responsibility in managerial or administrative roles. It becomes their duty to train, assist, and promote the interests of their company, battalion, or district.

Challenges for Volunteer Firefighters

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Out of 27,192 fire departments that staff about 1,215,300 firefighting personnel, 32% were career firefighters, 56% were volunteer firefighters, and 12% were paid-per-call firefighters.

The statistics compiled by the NFDR highlight a challenge faced by fire departments across the United States. 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. Read More

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

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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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Privatized Firefighters Aid Insurance Companies

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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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