Let's talk about the Fire Service

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Riggerjack
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by Riggerjack » Sun Feb 11, 2018 3:46 pm

I've seen the foam fire system in use. BF Goodrich Aerospace hanger 3 had a dozen or so 737 sized aircraft in the hangar, in varying stages of disassembly, when a mechanic tried to force a three phase power cable into the connector. If it won't go, hammer it, right? Until the sparks and fire fly, then the foam kicks in, everywhere.

BFG has a huge above ground water tank to support their foam system. Without connected power or water, the system will fill the hanger with 5 feet of foam. And toolboxes, and opened up airplanes... Let's just say that 1200 mechanics we're spending a day recovering toolboxes and cleaning tools, and the building remediation experts spent days cleaning up the hanger and drying it out. I don't know the details of what happened to the planes. BFG is in the aircraft refit and rebuild business. They routinely strip planes down to individual components, refurbish the components, then reassemble. If you have ever seen a frame off restoration of a classic car, they aspire to the level of work these guys do. But these are the same guys who can't get hired at Boeing, and sometimes hammer connectors together.

In any case, since it was an electrical fire, the foam is likely more damaging than the fire. But since we are talking about airplanes, anything that keeps them from being damaged is worth it.

I've seen brand new sprinklers destroy brand new rooms. I did a job for UWW, and one of the last inspections is a life safety test, where the fire alarms and sprinkler system is tested. Broken glass at a sprinkler head on the second floor. Fortunately, the guy running the test saw pressure not rising as expected, and shut down. One small office went from complete, to stripped to the studs, and concrete. There was no point in trying to clean it up. Fire sprinkler pipes are just black iron pipes, covered in a dirty oil inside and out, then filled with water, then released at pressure. The walls and floor were covered in water, oil, and rust. Again, a small fire would be less damaging.

I'm sure a real fire would be more damaging than these examples, if for no other reason than these examples were system overkills. I don't want to give the impression that fire suppression is as damaging as fire, it's not. But in the few examples I have seen, I was blown away by how bad they were. And that's something rarely talked about.

George the original one
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by George the original one » Sun Feb 11, 2018 5:09 pm

Pretty certain fire sprinklers are for saving lives rather than assets [as in insurance companies can calculate rates for losing assets, but not so much for lives lost because "courts"... self-insured owner-occupants have different value systems]. Not sure on the foam, other than it is for containing fuel fires.

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:35 am

@henrik

Yes, some of the public will often make complaints (old people are the worst offenders) without taking the time to understand the situation. A common complaint we get is that we are sending too many trucks to an emergency, especially a medical run. These are resources that are being wasted, I am a taxpayer, etc, the complaint goes. What they don't understand is that all of our personnel in my career dept. are either EMT's or Paramedics and that every truck, whether it be an engine company, ladder company, or rescue company has life-saving medical equipment on board and often times a regular company can get there faster than the ambulance. There are many emergencies where minutes do matter and if the first due truck can initiate life saving measures before an ambulance arrives than all the better.

Blocking traffic is another common complaint. I once had a lady get out of her car (blocking traffic ironically) to yell at me for stopping traffic because we had a medical emergency of a pedestrian on the road. What people don't understand is that we don't take shutting a road down lightly, there will be a very good reason for that decision because stopping traffic has ramifications, especially on high speed roads like interstates. You can't just stop your fire truck on an interstate where people are driving 90 mph and expect everybody to stop on a dime. What I would do is drive down the center, blocking both lanes and slowly decrease my speed a half mile out before we arrived on scene, giving everybody behind me a chance to slow down gradually. At that point you use your truck as a shield for victims and rescue personnel, and we also heavily used police as traffic control too.

Regarding information on dispatching for professional departments, yes they are different. Every fire station will have a house radio and a system to alert the firefighters if a run comes in, such as an alarm(tone) sounding and if it's at night when we're sleeping all of the lights will turn on in the bedrooms. Try that some time, haha, be in deep REM sleep and have one of your buddies turn your lights on and scream at you that you have to go NOW! I don't miss that at all, and I vowed after I retired that I would never interrupt my sleep like that again, a toilet visit (it happens), or rush another meal so I could eat before the next run came in.

So over the loudspeakers dispatch will alert which companies need to respond, address, and nature of the call. They will also seek an acknowledgment from the companies involved that they received the alert and are in fact responding (sometimes people can sleep through a run, even with the loud noises and lights). This usually involves a radio check, although there are other systems out there that bypass this method, because it takes time to radio check multiple companies over the radio.

We also get a run sheet printed for every run we make, and these are based off information we have gathered throughout the year(s) of company inspections and pre-plans. This is where we visit businesses and note such things as: hydrant location, cross-streets, water, gas, electric locations and cut-offs, elevator and elevator room locations, any special hazard, number of stories, square footage, emergency contacts and key-holder information, roof access, occupancy loads, alarm panel locations and type of system, sprinkler room location, etc. All of this information will be printed as the call comes in and we will grab it on our way out the door to our trucks. Private residences will typically contain much less information due to their size and normalcy, and unless the public wants us to inspect their home we typically don't unless invited.

Now what if we are in our fire truck traveling down the road when a call comes in? The dispatcher will alert us through a tone on our truck radio and await acknowledgment from us with location. A typical exchange will happen like this:

Dispatcher: Engine One

Engine One: Engine One, Pine street

Dispatch: Engine One respond to 1st and Main for a lift assist, room 332

Engine One: Clear and responding

Today many trucks will also carry an on-board computer such as a Tough-book. Typically a mapping program will be installed as well as the run sheets and the ability to acknowledge without the use of the radio. Radio traffic can be overwhelming on a large incident, during 9-11 FDNY could barely communicate as there were too many users for one radio channel, so there are work-arounds to this and one is to use a truck computer to respond to commands. Look at the example above for a simple lift assist. Now imagine multiple companies having to communicate in this manner. When you are the first due and there is fire showing and you can't get on the radio to give a report it is very frustrating, but fortunately these problems have solutions, and strict radio protocols are heavily enforced. The mapping program will literally draw for the driver a line to the incident. When I started, you had to memorize every street in your district but today these kids are getting spoiled. :)

So yes there are major differences between volunteer and career dispatching. There is much more accountability on the career side as command will know exactly which companies are responding to an incident ( and from where) whereas in volunteer land that isn't the case and often times volunteers won't have a system in place to acknowledge that they are in fact part of the incident (responding).

henrik
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by henrik » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:43 am

Thank you once again.
I'll give you some time to rest and others a chance to ask their questions before continuing:)

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:20 pm

@rigger, George

The sprinkler systems are designed for both life safety and property conservation, with different occupancies having different priorities. But yes, the vast majority are designed to either slow the rate of fire or extinguish it, thus allowing occupants the chance to escape. And there can be several different agents used besides water, some of which are not conducive to sustaining life such as carbon dioxide. Fire needs several things to burn: heat, oxygen, fuel, and uninhibited chemical chain reaction. Take away one or several of those components and the fire goes out. Sprinkler systems will take one of those things away.




What have you done in your own place for fire protection, and what else would you like to do?

I pay attention to anything that produces heat, not only for the risk of fire but potential inefficient burning hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning. I don't put my paper towels next to the stove or place anything on top it that will burn or melt for example. I make sure my pellet stove is properly vented with clean exhaust pipe. I keep a clean house with minimal clutter. I have direct access to any and all utility cut-offs such as water and electrical. I have multiple smoke detectors with charged batteries throughout my home, they are the cheapest insurance you will every buy. Also, I have a carbon monoxide detector. I pay attention to any electrical problem as it occurs, and I know how to isolate circuits and appliances ( everyone should map out their electrical circuits and have a reference handy). I pay attention to weather, especially lightning and wind conditions, etc, etc.

Really it comes down to common sense, having knowledge of how your home works, and just paying attention. And I can give you multiple examples of people just being stupid that led to their house catching fire such as smoking crack in bed, lighting scented candles after heavily saturating the air with lacquer thinner vapors, lighting a cigarette after disconnecting your gas line from a stove and not turning the gas off, passing out with a lit cigarette, throwing a lit cigarette off your deck only to have the wind blow it back against your house, burying scene lights with mulch, playing with fireworks near your house, sweating pipes with a torch without a fire barrier, dropping the gas tank while smoking a cigarette from the car that you are restoring (not any more), dumping the ashes from your fireplace into a cardboard box, passing out with food cooking on the stove, kids stealing their mother's cigarette lighter and playing with it in closets, throwing ashes from a campfire into the full dumpster next to your house, leaving lit candles around your house knowing your asshole cat will knock them over ( I have two memorable fires from just this happening), parking your overheated and malfunctioning car into your garage, etc, etc. These are just some of the fires that I have responded personally to that could have been prevented.

The ones that should concern you are the ones that are hard to prevent. Lightening strikes, improper house wiring that is impossible to see, workmen (roofers and plumbers are the worst offenders) starting a fire, wind driven forest fires, back-fed gas explosions, cars or planes crashing into your home, arsonists, etc. Your best bet in those cases is being properly insured and having good escape plans should your house catch fire. I say plans because no part of your home should trap you if the primary exit is blocked and everyone should plan on what they would do if they needed to escape quickly and then make it possible should they have to such as not blocking windows and having a clutter free home. I have walked into many a home that would have been a death trap if it had caught fire. I once made a run on a young woman's apartment because the cardboard boxes next to her fireplace caught fire. Here's a hint, don't store combustible items next to an open flame, haha. Once we evacuated the smoke we looked around and everywhere you looked there was stuff lying everywhere, everything from paper money to tampons(unused), to clothes, to papers and so one. Everything was clean but it just like she dropped whatever was in her hands whenever she was done with it, wherever that happened to be. That whole floor could have lit up because of the fire load if we hadn't put it out quickly.

But no, I don't go to extraordinary lengths although I have fire gear and my own air pack, and a garden hose that will get me pretty far.

henrik
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by henrik » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:15 am

Haha, you could have just replied "I have my own air pack and a garden hose" and looked way cooler:)

Are smoke and/or CO detectors mandatory in the US?
Do fire brigades make preventive home visits, for example where social workers or someone else have alerted of a serious fire hazard?

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:20 pm

@henrik

Haha, I try to stay away from being "that guy" in the fire service. But yeah, if you think I'm going to wait for the fire truck to show up before I try to put my fire out :roll:

Are smoke and/or CO detectors mandatory in the US?

Depends. Private residences aren't required to have anything in many areas of the country. With the low cost of detectors I think it's a pretty dumb move not to have them but you would be surprised. Now that will all change for businesses and high occupancy places, and especially for new business and governmental construction. So hospitals, government offices, libraries, hotels, senior citizen housing, jails, etc. will typically have both a sprinkler system and multiple smoke and co2 detectors. But every town and city is different because some old buildings are grandfathered in and exempted from some measures because they were built before the technology was widely available and different codes existed. As time goes on though there is a lot of consistency in enforcement of standards. Not just in alarm systems, but in means of egress, storage facilities, fire doors, etc.


Do fire brigades make preventive home visits, for example where social workers or someone else have alerted of a serious fire hazard?

Privacy is a huge issue in the United States, and unless we are invited, we cant just show up at private residence and expect entry. There has to be a reason for the visit, and most people willingly invite you onto their property if there is an emergency. That's not always the case however. Now I have given many a lecture on fire prevention to homeowner or occupants after we had arrived for a medical call or other emergency. Stuff like improper use of space heaters, extreme clutter, lack of detectors, etc. Businesses generally don't have that option although we are always extremely courteous of their time and workflow, although I am sure if a business pushed the legality of it I am not sure who would win. They just don't have an incentive to turn us away however once we explain we aren't there for punitive measures.

Now if we witness a hazard anywhere we are obligated to mitigate the situation or alert the proper authorities. Most times this involves simply calling attention to a situation and it gets immediately fixed, such as a blocked exit or improper storing of materials for example. It's rare when businesses don't want to work with you. Homeowners are a bit different as we can make recommendations but we really can't enforce everything unless it is deemed an immediate threat. You know, if you want to store gasoline in your basement, run 10 things off of a single outlet with extension cords, or not install detectors in your home that is your right in your private home. Just call us when your house is on fire.

Now if we observe abuse in the home then we don't hesitate to involve other agencies. I remember one run we made for a lethargic child called in by his mother. When we arrived we immediately noticed the mother was extremely intoxicated and combative, and the child lying on the couch asleep. This woman's mother was also there, but she suffered from dementia and was not aware of her surroundings. She just sat there almost catatonic staring at us. Fortunately the child was fine and once we woke him up to check him out he started crying very loudly. The only thing that would quiet him was to be in his mothers lap, but she was so drunk she couldn't hold him so I told one of my men to stay next to the mother and not let her drop the child so he would quit wailing. In the meantime, I contacted the police, the childs father, and social services. What was disturbing about the call was when the father arrived home from work he immediately went to console his alcoholic wife and ignored the child but our role was complete at the scene as it was a social services and police matter from that point on due to the child having no injuries. So yes, we have full discretion to notify any agency we deem appropriate.

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by jacob » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:45 pm

@henrik - According to the ordinance/building permit of my city (a random Chicago suburb), the rule (enforced by fines) was to have 1 CO monitor for each level of the house (we have three levels) and 1 smoke detector in each living room and each bedroom (kitchen and bathroom excepted). Since a bedroom, here, is defined as any room with a closet even if there are no beds, we have six detectors total (some are combined smoke(*)/CO)---four of which are practically within arms length of each other(**). But rules are rules. However, when the city showed up to inspect us [when we bought the house] they didn't bother to count. This only happens when ownership changes hands. It's not like there are regular inspections.

(*) Also note smoke can be detected either by ionization or by light. It's best to combine. Light smoke vs. dark smoke. ffj can probably explain the difference.

(**) It's cheap life-insurance though. We also have two extinguishers. One in the kitchen and one in the bedroom. Also one in the car for engine-fires.

I'm 90% sure that the local fire dep. will show up and inspect for free if we ask them.

PS: Last year, a house just up the street a few houses from me burned out its 2nd floor. Apparently some contractors had left a halogen light on and that had either fallen over and/or ignited something. At least that's the story. Lots of trucks showed up and it stank for hours (burning a house is more toxic than burning wood) so I had to switch off the central heating (temps in here dropped to 12C but it was either toxic heat or no heat). I saw one firefighter getting wheeled out on a stretcher. They had an ambulance on standby (sitting right outside my doorstep) early on, just in case, I presume.

PPS: @ffj I was always taught [Denmark] not to show up as spectator/possible help when firefighters/cops/ambulance was already there, but here in the US I note that any accident always gathers a crowd. So what's the official policy/recommendation on this? If the pros are already there... would you rather have more or less or no civilians hanging around?

George the original one
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by George the original one » Thu Feb 15, 2018 12:54 pm

@henrik - Oregon's smoke detector & CO monitor rules for homes are enforced at the time of sale. The owner can ignore them before/after the sale, but at the time of the sale the things have to be in place and operational. Generally it is outside concerns (lender, insurance, realtor) that nix deals if the detectors are not in place... considering how cheap the detectors are compared to the price of the home, few are willing to jeopardize the deal. An all-cash deal without a realtor/insurance can work around the rules.

I'm trying to remember if the rules are law or just recommendations for homeowners... the rules are definitely law if the home is a rental and a landlord will find it expensive if the landlord is not complying.

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:12 pm

@jacob

For a fire or car crash for example, we always evacuate the public after arrival once enough personal have arrived. Obviously, we will take care of the emergency first but as more fire units and police show up we will cordon off the area to keep people away. It can get pretty crazy when you first arrive especially at a large disturbance or a shooting or vehicle accidents with serious injury. The less people the better but sometimes the cops are so preoccupied trying to find the shooter or other agitators we have to be really careful. Our policy is that the police secure the scene ( shooting, stabbing, block fight, etc.) before we are allowed on scene but even then sometimes we have the potential to get attacked. I remember one run we made for a subject with difficulty of breathing. The reason she had a hard time breathing is because she had been fighting another woman on the street and once we had checked her out and administered oxygen, she felt good enough to walk over and punch the woman again which I kid you not resulted in another three fistfights simultaneously. So I had four groups of people duking it out in the street and I ordered my guys to stand down and let them fight until the police could secure all of them. I wasn't about to get my guys hurt over that stupidity. Crowds of people can be very dangerous and unpredictable.

We also cordon off any site that has a fatality to protect the deceased from on-lookers and picture taking. We'll use trucks, sheets, or tarps to block the publics view while an investigation is completed. Sometimes we will also transport a deceased, entrapped victim ( covered of course) of a car crash on a rollback to another location to extricate the body there because of privacy concerns. There are some places you just can't protect them from the public view so we move them to where we can.

Speaking of such things it reminds me of when Michael Brown was killed in St. Louis. Those cops left his body in plain view for a very long time while hundreds of people were able to see him lying there with a trail of blood. That was an incredibly stupid move and disrespectful and I believe that image helped ignite the riots. I don't know what they were thinking.

Not all crowds are bad however. Once I was driving an engine and we had a huge warehouse fire. Now this warehouse was on private property and I had no idea where the hydrants were but my officer told me to drive in a general direction and I would find one after I dropped him off at the fire. Now normally I would have dropped a supply line from the fire and driven straight to the hydrant but I couldn't because I didn't know where it was, so I drove through the smoke until a group of about 40 employees of the place that was burning started waving to me. In front of them was a hydrant, and the instant I stopped all of them grabbed my supply (which is 5 inch heavy hose) and dragged it 600 feet to the attack pumper that was waiting on it. So I hooked to the hydrant and pumped water for the next 7 hours and to this day I don't know how they knew which line to grab or where to take it. There must of been a fireman in the group. Haha

henrik
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by henrik » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:35 am

What about command structure - when several brigades respond to an event, how does it get determined who is in charge? First on scene? What about when it's a "complex event" with different kinds of responders, eg a shooter in a burning building or a train crash with multiple victims?

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:49 pm

We follow the Incident Command System, which is a wonderful tool if followed as it brings order to a potentially chaotic scene. In a nutshell, it allows command decisions to be made immediately upon arrival without having to wait on a "commander". Somebody is always in charge of the scene and command is transferred seamlessly as more personnel show up that are trained to run an emergency situation.

For example, if we are toned out for a structure fire, the first arriving emergency vehicle, no matter their status, will give a first due report.

Something like this:

Engine one: Engine one

Dispatch: Engine one go ahead

Engine one: Engine one is 10-97 (on-scene) at 123 Elm Street with heavy fire showing second story side C, Engine one will have command operating on Fire 2(radio channel separate from the main channel).

Dispatch: Dispatch clear

So what just happened? Engine one got there first, gave a report on conditions found on arrival, told where the fire was located, told what fire channel all responding units would be working off of, and took command. All in one breath. Now at each fire or emergency event, a superior officer will also be assigned to that event. He'll normally be driving a command vehicle such as a fire SUV and until that person arrives, Engine one has command and will direct firefighting operations and dispatch will communicate only with Engine one until the commanding officer announces his arrival. At that point everyone, including dispatch, will seamlessly and without fanfare, now understand that the commanding officer is now in charge of that scene. Engine one will now perform as a first due engine company and follow the Standard Operating Procedures for a first due engine. It's important to note that every company on a scene has a very specific role to play, many times according to the type of company (engine, ladder, rescue, EMS) and their order of arrival. So for example if two engines are assigned to a fire, my SOP's dictated that the first due perform fire suppression with on-board water and that the second-due secure a water source (catch a hydrant) for the first due. Here is something I saw at a pay it forward board ($5 off) at an ice cream shop. Do you get the joke?

Image

Back to command. The point is never to have an incident without a leader directing the scene, even if ones "command" only lasts a few minutes. Also, radio traffic is directed to only one person for the most part and dispatch has someone to communicate with for updates and special requests. Now we'll use SOP's ( we have SOP's for every emergency imaginable) for most incidents so it's not as if the Incident Commander has to tell each company everything to do, they already know what is expected of them, but he has full discretion to change the plan of attack or evacuate the structure and all companies will do as told immediately. There's no debate on scene if given an order. One of the talents you will acquire becoming a firefighter is changing directives on a dime due to situational changes beyond your control.

Now what if the incident Commander has a scene that worsens or is bigger than anticipated? He can call for a second alarm which will bring him more resources and a chief to become the new Incident Commander, which frees up the original IC to now strictly perform fire operations, and over the radio he will announce that he is now the Operations Chief, and the arriving chief with the second alarm is the new IC. That way he can focus strictly on fire operations and not be bothered with other issues and the new IC can handle everything else. The regular companies simply call for Operations if they need something in their fire suppression duties. The Incident Command System easily allows one to scale-up an incident without losing leadership.

What I've just described is what happens almost all of the time for regular incidents that can be handled with a normal alarm assignment. The Incident Command System allows for great expansions of that basic model. When things get a little crazy, two, three, four alarm fires or other calamities, then the number of commanders are going to expand, but they will have very specific roles that are being directed under a Unified Command. Someone will be assigned Operations, another Logistics, another PIO (public information officer), etc. Also, other agencies such as police, FAA, FEMA, military, public works, etc. may be involved and they will operate within the ICS just as fire does with their commanding officers working a shared command under a Unified Command. Just imagine an incident command post where all of the head guys from each agency directly communicate with each other and formulate a plan of attack and implement it through the officers under their command. Here is a schematic:

Image

All of this available online as well as NIMS (national incident management system) guidelines. Make sure you are well-caffeinated before you plunge in though as this stuff is dry. I don't like some of the NIMS terminology because nobody uses it until there is a large incident, but it's designed so that multiple agencies can talk to each other and understand each other, but I have found that a lot of people don't keep up with it as it is boring and and very infrequently needed.

Hope that clears up some of what you asked.

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Sun May 06, 2018 10:56 pm

Post by Jason » Sun, 06 May 2018, 19:30

The other day I had to wait for a fire truck to pull into the station and I could hear it's internal noise. It got me thinking:

- Do they have heating/cooling systems for the water? Does it matter what temperature the water is when it hits fire? Is hot water as effective as putting out a fire as cold water?
- Do they have back up a generator system for all the electronic systems? Are there separate batteries for the engine and all the other functions?
- I'm assuming its manual transmission? How many gears? How fast can they go?
- I am surprised at the size of the steering wheel in yours. It looks like a normal car steering wheel. Do they still have the steering wheel in the back like in this?


I assume you are referring to the water that is used to extinguish fires and not the internal water cooling system for the engine of the truck. No, the water is stored in a baffled tank and is subject to outside temperatures which can create problems in cold weather as we don't want it to freeze. Of course the trucks are kept in heated buildings which keeps the water above freezing. Now once we are called out we have to be mindful in extremely cold temperatures the water can and will freeze so we "drop the tank" once on scene and put the truck in pump gear. Dropping the tank just means that we open a valve to let in water to the pump from the tank. This allows water to start moving (water doesn't freeze while moving) and we can circulate the water from the tank, to the pump, and back to the tank again. Now if we are actually flowing handlines then we just let that do the job for us but we have to be careful not to completely shut the hose lines down because they can freeze up even faster. But it has to be really cold before stuff starts freezing up quickly. Something like 20 degrees F is no big deal but once it starts getting in the teens or below than problems can arise.

The temperature of the water doesn't matter in practical terms as long as it is above freezing. I'm sure someone like Jacob could dissect that question in absolute terms.

A lot of trucks will have a generator but they are used for such things as scene lighting or operating tools. The electronics are powered by the battery system and engine. Most firetrucks will have a fairly large battery system and to be honest I don't know how the electronics are tiered exactly as far as battery draw but I do know certain systems such as emergency lighting will automatically shut down should the voltage go down. But the generator isn't back-fed that way as it has a separate job to perform, although they require battery power to start, fuel pumps to feed them as well as the diesel fuel.

Most fire trucks are automatic these days although there are many that are manual too. But most urban trucks are automatic. In the more rural areas it's sometimes necessary to have some lower gearing and 4-wheel drive, especially in brush trucks but most city trucks will have an automatic transmission.

How fast can they go? Depends on what you are driving really and what speed you should be driving, haha. It also depends on what road you are on as stops and starts kill any momentum you may have built up. On interstate runs I've gotten up to 65-70 mph assuming I was allowed to build up speed with a fire engine and there wasn't a speed governor on the motor. Most runs involve a lot of stopping because we are required by law to stop at every intersection whether we have the light or not. I would guess that most runs average 35-40 mph. We can't go that fast for safety reasons and most trucks won't allow you to anyway due to their weight, gearing, size, and mechanical restrictions. Remember, you also have to be able to stop.

You would be amazed at how well these trucks handle these days. It didn't always used to be that way but man these trucks handle well considering their size and length and weight. Standard steering wheel with an airbag as well as normal brake and accelerator pedals. I think the drivers seat and especially the officers seat is small to be honest but they have make room for that huge engine and transmission that they are sitting on. The wheel in the back is for a tractor drawn tiller which is a separate beast than what they are building for us. The guy in the back on a tiller is just being pulled and he has to maneuver and coordinate with the driver of the tractor. I've never had the pleasure or terror of steering one yet. :D

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by Jason » Mon May 07, 2018 7:19 am

ffj wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 10:56 pm


No, the water is stored in a baffled tank and is subject to outside temperatures which can create problems in cold weather as we don't want it to freeze.
So the fire truck itself holds water? How much? Is it a precautionary measure against no hydrant or hydrant malfunction? Do rural areas not have access to hydrants? When I am in more urban type areas I often see the firemen test the hydrants.

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Mon May 07, 2018 8:26 pm

Yes, a fire engine will always have water. This can vary from 500 to 1000 gallons typically. A ladder truck may or may not, depending on the design and need of the department. Many will carry around 3 or 4 hundred gallons which realistically won't accomplish much, but for ISO ratings (insurance service office) which influence insurance costs. A ladder company will almost always need an engine company to assist them in flowing big water even if the ladder truck has a pump. Rescue companies typically carry no water but some do in the form of a rescue pumper. Confused? Don't feel bad because all departments will have slightly customized trucks based on their area of coverage and personnel. And we call ourselves different things. For example, a rescue company may perform strictly EMS in one place but do heavy rescue (confined space, rope rescue, swift water, building collapse) in another. Some people call their ladder companies aerials, whereas other places call their aircraft aerials.

But in general you will have engine companies, which are normally tasked with putting water on the fire, ladder companies, which are tasked with laddering the building, flowing big water from an elevated stream, forcible entry, building search, opening up, and ventilation. In some departments, a truckie (ladder guy), will never touch a hose and be proud of that fact. And rescue companies, which are tasked with specialized rescue such as rapid intervention (finding downed firefighter), rope rescue, confined space, trench rescue, structural collapse, swift water, and dive. Most departments will also run EMS.

A fire engine will cary water because they can begin their fire attack without having to necessarily hook up to a hydrant. Usually a second due engine will be tasked with getting water to the first attack engine, usually by laying a supply line from a hydrant to the first engine. Sometimes due to the length the second due will have to pump the water to the attack engine. Anyway, by not requiring the first due to hook up to a hydrant it saves valuable time in which a fire attack can be initiated. You can do a lot with a thousand gallons but it is imperative that the first due NEVER run out of water with no interruptions in water supply. Engine guys take pride in that.

Rural areas won't have hydrants. If you'll read what I wrote earlier in this thread I explain that.

Part of many dept's policy is that they test and inspect every fire hydrant in their city. They are looking for water flow (gpm), ease of use, visibility, vandalism, and residual pressure when a hydrant is flowing to determine capacity. If you'll look next time at hydrants, you'll notice that each top(bonnet) will be either light blue, green, yellow or orange, red, or black. These all indicate what they are rated in gpm with the light blue the best and the black a dead hydrant.

henrik
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by henrik » Mon May 14, 2018 9:18 am

ffj wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:49 pm
We follow the Incident Command System /.../ Somebody is always in charge of the scene and command is transferred seamlessly as more personnel show up that are trained to run an emergency situation. /.../
Hope that clears up some of what you asked.
It does and it makes sense, thank you for the explanation. The system seems quite similar to what's followed in many EU countries, right up to a national staff being set up to lead, which I imagine in the US would be run by FEMA.
As IC on site, how much authority do they give you to seize private resources (eg fuel, machinery) or task private persons?

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Tue May 15, 2018 9:13 am

@henrik

We are expected to carry the equipment and personnel necessary to execute the tasks on hand, so it is a rare occurrence that we would ever commandeer private resources or *task private citizens. At least in the professional world of firefighting.

Now in the volunteer side of things, there will be occasions where private citizens will be put to use or their resources, namely water sources such as a pond or swimming pool. We don't want to use them for firefighting because they aren't protected or trained, but sometimes they will help you carry things such as hose or extrication tools. But we really don't want untrained people involved for too long, especially with real hazards. I've been to many car accidents where Good Samaritans stop and render aid as best to their ability, and most are relieved to see us walking up so they can relinquish that duty but sometimes due to the number of victims we will let them stay and comfort the victims with non-life threatening injuries while we focus on serious injuries. At least until more professionals show up. We don't want screaming and crying people unduly adding chaos while we perform our duties.
Btw, it has been my experience the ones making the most noise are usually the ones the least hurt. That's why it's always a good sign when a kid is wailing even though it's upsetting to hear. The ones that are sitting or lying there either unresponsive or very quiet are many times suffering from a lot of trauma.

*An exception would be at large facilities such as factories or hospitals or jails/prisons, etc. Many times we need someone to either alert us to highly specialized operations or simply unlock highly secured doors. As an aside, I highly suggest never going to prison and if you do, never having a major health set-back such as a heart attack while incarcerated. The number of hoops we had to jump through just to access our patient added a lot of time to our arrival, and if you aren't breathing then it sucks to be you. They will not deviate from their protocols just because you decided to die that day. In my old district I had two prisons, the jail, a mental hospital, multiple charitable organizations that took care of the indigent, and the Greyhound Bus station where future customers arrived every day. A lot of cities will pay for bus tickets to literally ship their problem children out to some other city that has a generous policy towards people that are homeless or addicted. We responded to a lot of the less fortunate among us.

We've also used equipment from farmers too such as skidsteers and front-end loaders for nuisance fires such as hay or mulch. Until you spread that stuff out you can't put it out. We used to respond at least once a year to an operation that mulched horse shit and hay to sell to mushroom growers. So much internal heat would build up that it would ignite and since they had acres of this stuff we would be there for an entire shift. I still remember groaning when the call would go out because I knew I would be spraying horse poop down for hours. Nothing glamorous about that, haha.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Wed May 16, 2018 9:14 am

If you'll look next time at hydrants, you'll notice that each top(bonnet) will be either light blue, green, yellow or orange, red, or black. These all indicate what they are rated in gpm with the light blue the best and the black a dead hydrant.
I was driving around yesterday so I started watching for hydrants. I passed at least 10 of them and they were all light blue.

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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by Jason » Wed May 16, 2018 10:07 am

ffj wrote:
Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:25 pm
arson is suspected.
What's your best arson story? Wife loses house in divorce and burns it down? Husband catches wife in bed with boyfriend and sets the bed on fire?" The Jewish lightning "I need money, what's this insured for?" Or the "Oops, I just burned my own shit to the ground?" via fell asleep smoking, put out grease fire with water, thought I just burn this pile of leaves and before I knew it the entire neighborhood is a raging inferno.


This is on my reading list.

https://www.amazon.com/American-Fire-Lo ... 1631490516

ffj
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Re: Let's talk about the Fire Service

Post by ffj » Thu May 17, 2018 10:01 am

@Gilberto

Now you can start looking for FDC's and PIV's. :D

@Jason

Most arson fires aren't glamorous or exciting, but an absolute pain in the ass. And it's usually the kids that are responsible for a ton of work on our parts. There was a doughnut shop in our district with a dumpster out back and every evening they would throw all of these doughnuts away that had expired. The dumpster was next to a fence and on the other side were bales of cardboard to be recycled from a furniture store. These kids would use the cardboard to climb on to hop the fence and steal the doughnuts until one night they decided to burn the cardboard and their ladder. When we arrived on scene there were about twenty huge bales on fire and the only way to put it out was to cut the bands and spread all of the cardboard apart. I ended up having to call two more companies out that night to help and it took about six hours.

We had another kid that loved to burn these huge tires behind a cross-fit gym. You know, these people that flip tires for a workout? Well, he would wait until about 3 a.m. and light them up and boy did they burn well. After the third incident and the destruction of an entire bank of electrical meters, the gym decided not to replace them. We had another kid that loved to burn wooden fences and so and so on. Dumpsters are frequent targets too.

Abandoned homes or buildings are frequent targets for arson too. We used to respond a lot to an abandoned apartment complex that saw some huge arson fires in my district. The funniest one though occurred while the arson squad was investigating an earlier arson fire the day before and the arsonist lit another one while they were on the property! I vividly remember this because I was there with my engine company helping the investigation and we had just left the property when the arson guys called in a structure fire at the same place. So we turned around and sure enough we had a fire in the apartments about two buildings down from where we had just been. And the fire was big enough ( a room and a hallway) that it had to have been started while we were there.

Not an arson story but kind of funny too. We once responded to an alarm drop at a school and we noticed a kid running from the school and he runs right in front of our engine. Now the burglar alarm had been alerted too so we instantly surmise this kid just broke into the school and was making a run for it. One of the guys on my truck jumps off and tries to run him down (which is not our job btw) but I wasn't going to let my buddy face this guy alone so I start chasing too. Ever seen the intro to COPS? People jumping fences, running through yards, etc? That was us and when I would get close to this kid I would yell STOP! and he would turn around and yell FUCK YOU! and keep running. Haha. Now keep in mind we were wearing full turnout gear and this kid had on shorts and a T-shirt but the adrenaline had kicked in and two of us finally cornered him in a backyard and I vividly remember thinking "what do I do now?" Haha. But we just blocked his exit and waited for the police to come arrest him while he called us every name in the book and made fun of how much we were sweating. Hell yeah I was sweating, jumping fences with twenty pounds of hot turnout gear on, you little shit. I would guess he was about 14 or 15 at the time and on a fast track to the prison system. Come to find out he had broken into the school and had smashed and destroyed a bunch of stuff inside.

On a more serious note there are people out there that use arson to either cover up a crime or are actively trying to kill somebody. One of the first murders I responded too in my career was like that; the victim had been beaten to death with a lamp and the guy that killed him set the place on fire to cover it up. Fortunately we put the fire out quickly so most of the evidence remained. We had another guy burn down an entire apartment complex because he was pissed at his girlfriend. Very fortunate for him that nobody died in that fire because several people came very close on that day as he started the fire in the common stairwell. He ultimately received a very lengthy prison sentence for that as was proper. Fires like that are dangerous for us because many times an accelerant is used or a large fuel load is ignited first which greatly accelerates the burning process making the building much more unsafe.

There are also arsonists in the fire service. At one of my old volunteer fire departments we had a rash of fires in the remote part of our county, mainly barns and unoccupied houses. Whenever homes without electrical service or barns start going up in flames for no obvious reason, then arson is always suspected. So an investigation was started and what finally led to the capture of the arsonists was a phone call. Someone had placed a phone call from a country store to report a fire and when the location of the call was noted and compared to where the fire was located, it was surmised that it would have been impossible to have covered that distance in that time frame. Fortunately, there was surveillance footage at the store and although the phone booth wasn't in view the callers vehicle was, sans the license plate, and in the back corner window was a sticker of our fire department. Even better, the caller was a female, which ruled a ton of people out, and the vehicle matched hers. Now there were several other people involved and through questioning her and noting response times of these other people in question, ultimately four were sent to jail, with a couple others under strong suspicion, with some being juveniles. Apparently they were just bored and wanted some excitement.

O.K, tired of typing but that was kind of fun remembering some of those runs.

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