If you watch your local TV news this morning, there’s a chance you’ll see Judy Comoletti of NFPA’s public education division sharing tips on how to keep your holidays fire-safe. It’s all part of NFPA’s “Project Holiday” campaign, where we’re offering a free online toolkit filled with safety tips, reports, talking points, videos, and fun gift and tree tags to help your family and community understand the importance of fire safety this winter. Get all of the details on our Project Holiday page.
This morning, Judy is stationed at a private home north of Boston, and through the magic of a satellite media tour, is participating in more than 2 dozen television interviews with stations across the country.
As a firefighter or officer in charge of an engine company or other fire apparatus, we often face situations in which we arrive at a fire and have to make instantaneous decisions that will shape the outcome of the incident. And these split-second decisions need to be made while simultaneously conducting a size-up, determining attack method and giving orders.
With so much happening at once, one of the questions that will likely arise is when to call for help. On the one hand, we worry about being ridiculed or reprimanded for calling for help too early or when it turns out it wasn’t necessary. But on the other hand, we’ve all heard the saying, “It’s better to call for help and not need it than to be wishing you had”—a very good statement. Bottom line: We want to make the right decision, so this article will address how to determine when it is appropriate to call for help.
Conduct a Needs Assessment
The answer to this question depends on the apparatus and staffing of the responding companies. You should have a good idea of who is coming and what to expect from your various response situations (volunteer, career or combination systems). When we teach, we like to show students a system that involves conducting a “needs assessment.” We first review a series of tasks that often need to be completed for a specific type of fire (e.g., one-bedroom, kitchen fire) and how many firefighters you think you would need to complete the tasks.
Last year, the Chicago Tribune exposed the serious health risks posed by ordinary household furniture that is chock full of fire retardant chemicals that don’t provide meaningful fire protection. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. They escape from furniture and settle in dust. That’s especially dangerous for toddlers, who play on the floor and stick things in their mouths.
The Tribune series, “Playing With Fire,” showed how an outrageous confluence of industry manipulation and government neglect created this hazard for the public, ironically in the name of keeping people safer.
Air consumption awareness is a simple drill that is designed to give each firefighter and the officer a general idea of how long he or she will be able to work off of one bottle of air. Many variables can affect this on the actual fire ground, but it is still a good tool to use when evaluating your company’s abilities. It can be a good wake up call for some of us as to what kind of shape we are in, and there will be some people who will disagree with the whole point of the exercise. This is not a race, but as with anything in the fire house; this will create some competition! There is no running permitted and I will explain the format that my department uses.
We start with by donning all of your PPE, including an SCBA. Your beginning air pressure and start time will be documented. Times and pressure will be documented when you have 50% of your breathing air remaining, when your low air alarm sounds, and when you are completely out of air. When the low air alarm sounds; we stage another firefighter with you to assist with equipment removal when you are completely out of air.
Daron Ehling fought 19 wildfires this year — long hours of cutting firebreaks and felling trees in the sweltering heat of eastern Washington. In 2012 he went out on 16 fires. And the year before that?
“The only thing I knew about a chain saw was how much they’d give me at a pawn shop,” he says.
Ehling is serving time at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, a prison near Spokane; he ended up there after getting caught breaking into houses in order to support a heroin addiction. He says the adrenaline rush of heading out to a fire reminds him a little of breaking into houses, but it’s far more fulfilling: “I can still get that same kind of excitement doing something good, knowing there’s a purpose behind it.”
One of the functions of a truck company is to ventilate and force openings within a structure. Some fire departments have rotary saws on their apparatuses to complement the equipment needed to ventilate buildings and to force different types of openings. This valuable tool, which has many benefits, such as portability and power, should be used more often.
The rotary saw can be carried anywhere on the fire ground, including to the roof of a building and up and down ladders. The rotary saw weighs between nine and 16 kilograms (20 and 35 pounds) without fuel. One firefighter can carry the saw either with the handles or using a strap attached to the saw. The strap can be made from webbing or even a used seatbelt. Having a strap frees the firefighter’s hands so that he or she can carry other tools or have both hands available for climbing a ladder. The rotary saw is portable enough that it can be used in small spaces, such as a trench for auto extrication purposes, provided there are no explosive gases present.
All rotary saws are powered by internal combustion engines – two-stroke, small gas engines. The small engines can range from 74 cubic centimetres (cc) to 119 cc in displacement with horsepower ranging from five horsepower (hp) to 8 hp. Due to this high output of power, the saw produces blade speeds from 4,700 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) to 5,400 r.p.m. This allows the saw to cut through almost any type of material for which the blade is designed and rated. The blade size also varies from 30.5 to 40.5 centimetres (12 to 16 inches).
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — The men cluster in a tight pack, identities obscured by fire-resistant Nomex clothes, each one anonymous except for the color of his helmet: red for corrections officers, blue and yellow for inmates.
When the air was hot and the woods were parched last summer, the peak of the wildfire season in the West, these trained wilderness firefighters fought 13 forest fires in Arizona, including the one in June that half-destroyed the nearby village of Yarnell and killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team. On a crisp morning this fall, they were using chain saws and pulaskis — a firefighting tool that combines an ax and an adz — to chop overgrown bushes in a private development here, offering a measure of fire prevention for houses built in the wild.
Their home base is the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, but when asked where they are from, the reply is simply “Buckeye,” the name of the town where the prison is located. If there are other questions, they call it a “gated community” and leave it at that.
“That we’re inmates is the last thing on anybody’s mind,” said John Chleboun, 33, who has been serving time for burglary at the Lewis complex and is entering his second year with the crew.
The Philadelphia Fire Department is beta-testing a new mobile application that gives crews vital information at a fire scene – information officials say can help save the lives of citizens and firefighters.
The Geographic Information System, or GIS for short, gives fire commanders access to thousands of data points on an interactive, satellite map — using a iPad like tablet.
“We know the size of the building, the dimensions, how many occupants (the building has the capacity to hold.) It lets us know how many resources we’re going to need to get those people to another location. Or do we make the decision to shelter employees? So, it helps us make real-time decisions,” says Deputy Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer.
Through the GIS, commanders can review many types of information — including calls coming into the 911 system, the current location of fire trucks and ambulances, licenses and inspections (L&I) data, where hazardous materials are stored, floor plans for large buildings and the location, size and working condition of fire hydrants.
“By knowing those hydrants that are out of service, we can actually deploy our resources to hydrants that we know are working, rather than having them go try to hook-up and realize, ‘Oh, they’re not working,’ and have to go to another location. That helps us get the service quicker,” Sawyer said.
ST. PETERSBURG — The fire began about 5 a.m. on a Sunday in March. A man lit two burners to cook a meal, but fell asleep.
He awoke in his house at 4056 18th Ave. S to the choking pain of smoke. The fire had spread from the kitchen to the attic, and by the time firefighters arrived, the man was running outside as flames consumed his home.
South Pasadena fire Lt. Lawrence Wilson was on scene as part of mutual aid agreement with St. Petersburg. As they tried to put it out, Wilson was injured. He went to the hospital and missed work. He still suffers from pain. But his injury didn’t come from the fire or smoke or a hazard caused by the blaze. Instead, he slipped on a piece of tile.
What are the components of your PPE elements? What is the purpose and limitations of each element in your structural PPE? LION is proud to produce the world’s most advanced turnout gear, but all PPE has its limitation. Knowing how much protection your gear provides in a given environment is critical to ensuring you walk out of it.