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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 Prepare and Evacuate for a Wildfire

evacuate for a wildfire

Prevention

No matter where you live, you may be at risk for wildfires. Several steps can be taken to ensure you are prepared for the unexpected circumstance of a fire while safely evacuating your family from your home. One of the simplest ways for minimizing or preventing wildfire damage to your property is known as fire mitigation.

The most effective strategy to improve your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire is by creating defensible space around your property. It is recommended that you create two defensible space zones; a 30 foot and 100 foot zone, within this area you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Each zone will create a buffer between structures on your property and the grass, trees, shrubs, or any wildland surrounding it.

Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information. 

wildfire preparedness week

Whether you live in a fire zone or live in the city it is important to have defensible space around your home. Along with defensible space it is also important to consider the following to protect your property and home:

Property Checklist

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs, and clear out all flammable vegetation
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home
  • Mow grass regularly
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue
  • Place a screen over the barbecue grill—use non flammable material with mesh no coarser than one quarter inch
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site and follow local burning regulations
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans, and place the cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home, and clear combustible material within 20 feet
  • Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents

Prevention Checklist

  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind: select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
  • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals.
  • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees (for example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees)
  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211.
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes
  • Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space
  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool or hydrant
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off

Preparation

Before a wildfire it is crucial to protect your home and prepare for evacuations. If you live in an area under threat by wildfire, pay attention to official channels for evacuation orders. Make sure every member of your family has a bag packed with essential items to last you multiple days away from home. Along with each members disaster supply kit, make sure you have a family emergency plan and a means of transportation standing by. 

wildfire evacuation preparedness
  • A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person, per day) and food that won’t spoil
  • A 3-day supply of water and food for each pet in your household
  • One change of clothing and footwear per person
  • One sleeping bag or blanket per person
  • A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications
  • Emergency tools including a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteries
  • An extra set of car keys, credit card, cash, or travelers checks
  • Sanitary & hygiene supplies
  • Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members
  • An extra pair of eyeglasses

Once you have each kit packed, maintain them on a yearly basis by replacing expired items and rethinking the necessary contents. Food and cans should be packed and kept in cool, dry places. Keeping emergency kits at home, in your car and at work are all good ideas since you never know where you’ll be when you need to evacuate.

Evacuation

Depending on your evacuation orders, an immediate evacuation of your home may be necessary. If there are evacuations in your area you should monitor local radio and news stations. Be prepared to leave at any time and if asked to evacuate, do so.  If you have time prior to evacuating the following four steps will aid in protecting your home and assisting fire fighters in their efforts. 

  1. Keep all doors and windows closed in your home.
  2. Remove flammable drapes, curtains, awnings or other window coverings.
  3. Keep lights on to aid visibility in case smoke fills the house.
  4. If sufficient water is available, turn sprinklers on to wet the roof and any water-proof valuables.
wildfire evacuation
Along with these items it is important to have an evacuation plan prepared that you and your family members are all familiar with. The checklist below will help your family  create the right plan. Each family’s plan will be different, depending on a variety of issues, needs, and situations. Create an evacuation plan that includes:
  • A designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical to determine who has safely evacuated from the affected area.
  • Several different escape routes from your home and community. Practice these often so everyone in your family is familiar in case of emergency.
  • Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals such as horses and other livestock.
  • Family Communication Plan that designates an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication among family members in case of separation. (It is easier to call or message one person and let them contact others than to try and call everyone when phone, cell, and internet systems can be overloaded or limited during a disaster.

The 6 P's

In the event of a quick evacuation, remember the 6 P’s! By having these items prepared ahead of time, you can grab them on a moments notice and evacuate safely. 

  1. People & pets
  2. Papers, phone numbers, & important documents
  3. Prescriptions, vitamins, and eye glasses
  4. Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
  5. Personal computer, hard drives, and disks
  6. “Plastic” (Credit Cards, ATM Cards, and Cash)

Prevention is Key

Every year across the U.S., major wildfires test homeowners and firefighters, some homes survive while many others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone woodland areas. Another way we think of it as, if it’s predictable, it’s preventable!

The best way to protect your home and family during a wildfire is by adding prevention and preparation into your routine. There is a lot of steps to take to be prepared but they can make the difference between saving your home and potentially your life. 

Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance

Wildland Firefighter

Over many decades, lessons learned from accidents and fatalities that have occurred on wildland fires have led to significant improvements in firefighter education, training, operational practices, and risk management processes. Unfortunately, wildland firefighting remains inherently hazardous, and we continue to experience accidents and fatalities.
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The Importance of Home Fire Sprinkler Systems

 

A vast majority of fire-related deaths in North America happen at home. There is no better time to bring attention to this problem and it’s solution than during this year’s Home Fire Sprinkler Day. Home Fire Sprinkler Day was a project initiated by NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada. This project tasks fire sprinkler advocates across North America with hosting events on the same day that promote home fire sprinklers.

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Reading Smoke Signals: How Skilled Firefighters Use Smoke to Determine the Characteristics of a Fire

firefighters reading smoke signals

One of the most important skills all firemen must possess in his situational awareness tool bag is the ability to read smoke.  A fire and its subsequent smoke does not delineate between incident commander, officer, operator or a probationary member. Though not an exact science and heralded as only privy to experienced crew members, the ability to read the smoke at any position within the company can help those responding to the incident make better tactical decisions.  Consequently, everyone at the incident should be armed with the ability to read smoke. Smoke can help first responders determine the fires location, growth, toxicity, direction of travel. In the case of a structure fire it helps us predict hostile fire events like smoke explosions, backdrafts and flashovers. In fact, the author of The Art of Reading Smoke, David W. Dodson a fireman that has spent 33 years learning and teaching on the subject says: “Reading smoke can tell us what is happening now and, more importantly, what is going to happen in the future,” said Dodson. “Reading smoke can tell us how big or intense a fire is, maybe where the fire is,” he said. “Watching how fast it is changing can tell if we have seconds or minutes before something happens.”

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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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What are the Different Ranks of Firefighters?

deputy fire chief

The fire service has a rich history dating back to the 17th century when New Amsterdam established the colonies’ first fire fighting system in 1647. During the early years, fire organizations were social groups within the community that sought to put out fires occurring in nearby metro areas. However, when fires ravaged cities like Chicago and New York, the lives of thousands of people were in danger. The public quickly demanded that fire service institutions be organized in cities and towns to protect life and property.

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How Drones Are Hindering Firefighting Efforts  

drone interfere with firefighting

As we move deeper into the 21st century, one of the prevailing issues of our time is the need for common sense to keep up with burgeoning technology and how it can help or hinder our response to all sorts of emergencies. Recently, the serious issue of civilian drones has come to the forefront of emergency services as incidences of drones interfering with first responder operations are on the rise. Sometimes, this has devastating effects.

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Three Reasons Why Firefighting is Getting Costlier

wildfires getting costlier

It turns out that 2017 was a banner year, and ultimately a tragic one, for the bottom line among the world’s insurance carriers. Unparalleled natural disasters around the world will result in more than $135 billion in claims and losses. Total property losses, after you factor in uninsured property, will exceed $330 million. Only 2011, which included the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear plant, resulted in greater losses.

While it’s impossible to put monetary value on the loss of life, one can only imagine the scale of tragedy after so many floods, hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfires.

Possibly more distressing is the overwhelming opinion among the scientific community that these natural disasters, caused and amplified by a number of factors, will only increase in years to come.

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Why Mudslides Occur After Large Wildfires Like the California Thomas Fire and How to Protect Yourself From Them

thomas fire

In January of 2018, the relief from hazardous weather and extreme conditions did not appear to be in sight for residents of the Golden State.  Devastating mudslides in California killed at least 20 people in early January in the coastal town of Montecito.  Downed trees and power lines as well as cascading boulders made the task of getting to those needing assistance difficult.  The excessive flooding and debris made air transport the only viable form of rescue.  Helicopters loaned by Ventura’s Air Squad 6 dedicated were used to pluck more than 50 people from rooftops from parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

As of mid-January, the relief and search effort numbered 3,000 workers from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross.  Details regarding the victims’ circumstances before the mudslides emerged from rescuers.  As the saturated hillsides gave way, the torrent of mud, water, and other debris was said to have swept the casualties away while they slept.  The mudslides were triggered by a powerful storm that hit the region along with mountainous areas that were stripped of vegetation burned bare by the gigantic December 2017 Thomas fire.  Let’s take a look at how the wildfires that raged through the area late last year have made the mudslides more devastating.

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