Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, People
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 9:12 am

Accident crushed firefighter’s body, not his spirit

By Brendan Milewski

Special to CNN

Editor’s note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle — injury, illness or other hardship — they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. This week we introduce you to Brendan Milewski, who bravely served in the Detroit Fire Department for over a decade before one act of arson ended his career and changed his life forever.

When people find out you’re a firefighter, the first question they ask is: “What made you join the fire service?”

This is typically followed by: “My dad, grandpa, or uncle was on the job.”

That wasn’t the case for me. Instead, interest in a career in public safety came in waves throughout my adolescence. I assure you, I am a first and last generation firefighter.

It first started at age 13, when I was spending the night at a friend’s house in the neighborhood where I grew up. After seeing an ambulance race down the street, we went outside to find the house two doors down on fire. The closest fire company hadn’t arrived yet.

I had a front-row seat to the entire scene. I heard the sirens, smelled the smoke, saw the rigs arrive, and watched as these courageous men entered the house and pulled three people out of the fire.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, People
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 10:11 am

Battling Flames in Forests, With Prison as the Firehouse

By Fernanda Santos

For The New York Times

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.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, Performance, Safety
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 9:11 am

New App Gives Firefighters Full-View at Fire Scenes

By Vince Lattanzio

For NBC Philadelphia

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.

Read the full article here.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, Health, News, Safety
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 9:11 am

NFPA Report: 2012 U.S. firefighter injuries

By Michael J. Karter, Jr. and Joseph Molis

For NFPA  Journal

Firefighters work in varied and complex environments that increase their risk of on-the-job death and injury. A better understanding of how these fatalities, injuries, and illnesses occur can help identify corrective actions, which could help minimize the inherent risks. In an effort to do just that, NFPA studies firefighter deaths and injuries annually to provide national statistics on their frequency, extent, and characteristics.

Based on survey collected from fire departments during the NFPA Survey of Fire Departments for U.S. Fire Experience, NFPA estimates that 69,400 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty in 2012. This is a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before and the lowest it’s been since NFPA analyses began in 1981. In recent years, the number of firefighter injuries has been considerably lower than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, but this is due, in part, to additional survey questions on exposures that allow us to place them in their own categories, rather than including them as part of the total injuries in other categories.

NFPA also estimates that there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases last year, such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV, amounting to 0.3 exposures per 1,000 emergency medical runs by fire departments. In addition, there were 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions, such as asbestos, radioactive materials, chemicals, and fumes in 2012. This amounts to 18.2 exposures per 1,000 hazardous condition runs. An estimated 14,350 injuries, or 20.6 percent of all firefighter injuries, resulted in time out of work.

There were 69,400 firefighter injuries in the line of duty in 2012, a slight decrease of 1 percent from the year before.In addition to injuries, there were 8,150 exposures to infectious diseases and 19,200 exposures to hazardous conditions.Of the injuries, 31,490, or 45.4 percent of all firefighter injuries in 2012, occurred during fireground operations. An estimated 4,190 occurred while responding to, or returning from, an incident; 7,140 during training activities; 12,760 at nonfire emergencies, and 13,820 during other on-duty activities.The Northeast reported a higher number of fireground injuries per 100 fires than other regions of the United States.The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were strains, sprains, and muscular pain, which accounted for 55.2 percent of the injuries; wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruises, which accounted for 12.2 percent; thermal stress, which accounted for 5.8 percent; and burns, which accounted for 5.7 percent. Strains, sprains, and muscular pain accounted for 58.5 percent of all nonfireground injuries.The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion, strain, and falls, slips, and jumps.

Read the full report here.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News
Thursday, October 17th, 2013 8:10 am

Silverado Volunteer Firefighter Concept Can Take the Heat

From General Motors

With input from the National Volunteer Fire Council, Chevrolet developed the Silverado Z71 Volunteer Firefighter concept to honor the service of grassroots first responders and share a vision of how the all-new, more capable 2014 Silverado can be pressed into duty.

The concept vehicle features a full complement of rescue equipment incorporated on a new Silverado Double Cab equipped with the Z71 Off Road suspension.

“We wanted to pay tribute to these important men and women in communities everywhere,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “They are the kind of hard-working Americans for whom we design and build the Silverado, making sure it delivers the capability and dependability they expect.”

Approximately 90 percent of the fire departments in the United States are entirely or mostly volunteer – and 75 percent of all firefighters are volunteers. The volunteer fire council is made up of firefighter associations from 49 states and advocates policies, standards and programs to keep those firefighters safe.

Earlier this year, the fire council and Chevrolet began a partnership to raise awareness for volunteer emergency services, and support volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel nationwide.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, Safety
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 8:09 am

Study predicts wildfires to triple by 2050

By Mary Rose Roberts

For Fire Chief

By 2050, wildfire seasons will be about three weeks longer, twice as smoky and wider in area, according to environmental research scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

A study was commissioned by multiple federal agencies, the EPA, NASA, the NIH and other scientists who are “trying to bridge the gap between NASA satellite and models and policymakers,” said Loretta J. Mickley, a senior research fellow in atmospheric chemistry at SEAS. Mickley is co-author of the new study and has been working on the issue since 2008.

Mickley said the study mathematically predicts how gradual climate change may contribute in the coming years to increases in disruptive events, such as severe storms and forest fires, that depend heavily on meteorological factors.

“We wanted to understand the relationships between weather and wildfire area burn — so how big the fire given weather conditions,” she said.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, People, Safety, Training
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 8:08 am

Experienced firefighters are more analytical under stress than novices, study finds


Experienced firefighters take longer to make decisions under stress than novice firefighters, according to research conducted at Iowa State University. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

After conducting dozens of virtual reality trials in which real firefighters with varying levels of experience responded to fire simulations, experts at Iowa State said this week that seasoned firefighters took a more analytical approach than their less experienced colleagues when making decisions.

“The experienced firefighters put a heavier emphasis on enhancing their situational awareness and creating a mental map for themselves,” said Nir Keren, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

Keren said experienced firefighters are more likely to make good decisions when faced with a crisis, even if it takes them longer to decide on a course of action.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, People
Thursday, July 4th, 2013 10:07 am

Boys With Firefighting Dreams, and Goodbyes That Turned Final


For The New York Times

“I’m going down to Yarnell for a fire that’s threatening homes. I think I will be down there for a while on this one.”

It was 6:24 on Sunday morning, Andrew Ashcraft writing to his wife, Juliann. He was 29, a firefighter, a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew here, and he died alongside 18 of his teammates later in the day.

“Have fun,” Juliann replied. “We’ll miss you.”

“I miss you guys already,” Mr. Ashcraft wrote, not just to his wife, but to their four children, ages 1, 2, 4 and 6. Then, in capital letters: “I LOVE YOU JULIANN.”

The couple exchanged text messages intermittently throughout the day, mundane details of life on and off the job: Ms. Ashcraft taking the kids swimming, Mr. Ashcraft working in the brush in searing heat, praying for rain in the mountains around the old gold-mining town of Yarnell. At 2:30 p.m., he sent a photograph of the fire, gray smoke rising from the burning woods. At 4:08 p.m., Ms. Ashcraft asked if he would be staying in Yarnell for the night. She never heard back.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, Training
Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 8:06 am

Ohio firefighters learn valuable lessons from Colorado wildfire

By Lot Tan

For the Dayton Daily News

Eight Butler County firefighters dispatched 10 days ago to help battle the raging Black Forest fire in Colorado have returned home with some valuable lessons and tactics they believe will benefit the area should a major disaster strike here.

Firefighters representing Monroe and Middletown and Liberty, West Chester and Ross townships were sent to Colorado June 15 as part of The Butler County Incident Management Team. The team has been deployed to many natural disasters, including Hurricanes Irene and Sandy and the deadly tornado last year that devastated the small village of Moscow in Clermont County.

But team members, who returned Thursday, told this newspaper they’ve never seen a natural disaster like the swift-moving forest fire in Colorado, which has destroyed hundreds of homes and killed at least two people.

“You would see houses burnt down to the foundation. The smell is indistinguishable for miles and you could see everything in a specific direction was just charred, everything black,” said Matt Haverkos, Butler County EMA Operations Manager.

Continue reading here.

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Posted by Francesca Solano | Fire and Rescue, General, News, Safety
Thursday, June 6th, 2013 8:06 am

Firefighting robot paints 3-D thermal imaging picture for rescuers


Engineers in the Coordinated Robotics Lab at the University of California, San Diego, have developed new image processing techniques for rapid exploration and characterization of structural fires by small Segway-like robotic vehicles.

A sophisticated on-board software system takes the thermal data recorded by the robot’s small and maps it onto a 3D scene constructed from the images taken by a pair of stereo RGB cameras.

This allows small mobile to create a virtual reality picture that includes a 3D map and that can be used immediately by as the robot drives through a building on fire.

The research is part of a plan to develop novel robotic scouts that can help firefighters to assist in residential and commercial blazes. Researchers will present their results at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation to be held from May 31 to June 5, 2014, in Hong Kong.

Read more and watch a video here.

Photo Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego

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