Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fire Dept Staffing

This is in response to a retired Pasadena Police Chief who has Political aspirations in Glendale, where he now lives. He wrote this letter to the Daily News concerning Fire Dept Budgets.

In it he believes that most Fire Depts over-staff their Fire Engines. He should stick with staffing on Police Depts. Police and Fire Depts are very specialized services, and you really have to be one to know how things should be done.

To keep this short and simple, I will explain how a Fire Engine is staffed and rebut some of the points he made in his letter.

A Fire Engine is normally staffed with 4 Firefighters.

One is a Captain, who supervises all of the members on the Fire Engine. Second is the Engineer who drives the Fire Engine and operates the pump that supplies water to the various hoses. Third is the Hydrant Firefighter who hooks up the hose that supplies water from the Fire Hydrant to the Fire Engine. Fourth is the Nozzle Firefighter who lays out the hose and puts water where it is needed.

When there is a house fire, the Fire Engine drives down the street, stops at a fire hydrant and the Hydrant FF gets off the Engine and takes the hydrant hose and tools needed to attach it to the fire hydrant. The Fire Engine then drives up to the house on fire. The Nozzle FF gets out and starts laying out the hose that's needed to fight the fire. The Captain makes an assessment and determines if more resources are needed and what strategy to use to fight the fire. The Engineer takes the other end of the hydrant hose and connects it to the Fire Engine. In the meantime, the Hydrant FF has hooked up his end of the hydrant hose, and is waiting for the Engineer to attach his end before turning on the fire hydrant. After he turns on the fire hydrant, he runs up the street to join the rest of his crew who are now ready to fight the fire. This all happens within 2 minutes, depending on how far it is between the house and the hydrant.

As stated in the Letter to the Editor, there is a "2 in, 2 out rule." This satisfies that rule, with a catch. Remember, this is just a simple version of what happens at a fire. There are many scenarios, and other tangents we can go off on. But I have to keep this short and sweet. The catch is the Engineer doesn't count, because he is supposed to stay with the Fire Engine. This means that a 4-person Fire Engine is actually 1 person short.

Now, let's remove that one FF and make it a 3 person Fire Engine. Same scenario, BUT, there is no Nozzle FF, so when the Hydrant FF gets back to the Fire Engine to rejoin the rest of the crew, he lays out the fire hose that is needed and then nothing happens. Why? There is no "2 in, 2 out." They have to wait until another Fire Engine shows up BEFORE they can do any interior Firefighting. And the second Engine can't do anything, because they are the "2 out" part of the "2 in, 2 out" rule. There has to be 2 MORE 3-person Fire Engines to show up before the second Engine can help out the first 2 FFs that are already inside and needing help 20 mins ago.

So, in order to have proper personnel ratios, there would have to be more Fire Engines dispatched to a fire with a 3-person Engine, than with a 4-person Fire Engine. A lot more. What if there was another fire somewhere else? Everyone's at this fire, who will be sent to the other one? Multiple fires in a big City like Los Angeles? Yes there are. What if there is a Brush fire, and 20 Fire Engines are committed to fight that one? Not enough left over to cover LA City, that's for sure.

So with a 3-person Fire Engine, and not wanting to send so many resources to one fire, Fire Departments would have to switch Firefighting strategies from an Offensive attack, to a Defensive attack.

An Offensive attack is what the LAFD uses. We go inside a house, find the fire, and put water on it. The fire goes out with the least amount of damage as possible.

A Defensive attack would be to break a window from the outside of a house, and start shooting water into it, without ever going inside. This way usually causes the fire to burn more, and cause more damage. Mainly because you can not put water directly onto the fire, so it doesn't go out.

In one, you could lose one room of your house. In the other, your whole house could be damaged or a total loss. Which one would you choose?

Fires don't wait for anyone. There are no "time-outs." The longer a fire burns, the larger it gets. The larger it gets, the more damage is done. The more damage done, the more dangerous it is. Have you ever seen a roof collapse on anyone? Have you ever seen a FF go through a roof? All these things happen because a fire has burned long enough to weaken structural material in a building.

Fires need to be fought with as many people possible in the beginning to keep it in check, and then less and less as time goes on and a fire is put out. Start with the least amount, and the Fire will get bigger and bigger, and you start needing more and more people to help put it out or it gets out of control.

Believe me when I say, if your local Fire Station has a 3-person Fire Engine, you are being short-changed. It may save some money, but it's not worth it.


LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Thanks for sharing how its done at the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Stay Safe!

Fraternally Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Ninja said...

Don't go telling on me! ;)

Truck Replacement Parts said...

Hey guys!
i just started blogging not that long ago and running across this blog it seemed a bit too interesting to only read the first paragraph. I kinda got confused in the middle of it but the end just made it all go together like a puzzle. Please, who ever wrote this, keep me updated!

Ninja said...

I don't know what up want to be updated on. I don't think LA City would ever try to go to a 3-person Fire Engine. It would be to dangerous to fight a High Rise fire that way. But we are now under a "Modified Staffing" due to Cuts in our budget.

Ninja said...

And what is your blog?