How do I become a firefighter?
Why are Dalmatians considered firehouse dogs?
Dalmatians have shared the barns and the hunt courses with horses for centuries, so when fire-apparatus was horse-drawn, nearly every firehouse had its resident Dalmatian to help direct the horses, keep the horses company, and guard the firehouse.
The horses are gone from fire stations today, but the Dalmatians aren’t.
Firehouse dogs nearly always were called “Sparky,” so Sparky was the obvious name for NFPA’s fire prevention symbol.
We hardly ever have fires any more. What do you Firefighters actually do?
We also spend quite a bit of time maintaining our equipment, doing routine public safety inspections (one major reason we hardly ever have fires anymore), training for all types of emergency response and, of course, the paperwork associated with these activities. We also use our knowledge and energy to provide emergency training programs to the general public. Most popular of these is our NEAT and BEAT programs, (Neighborhood Emergency Action Team, and Business Emergency Action Teams).
Why do we get all these people (three firefighters complete with their big red truck, two ambulance attendants, etc.) at a simple medical call?
When a medical emergency is reported to the Public Safety Answering Point (911), dispatchers can not determine with certainty the exact nature or severity of the crisis. Additionally, medical emergencies tend to escalate during the time it takes to arrive on-scene. We send sufficient resources to handle the “worst case” situation and, in choosing what resources to commit, dispatchers must always act in the best interests of the patient. An old fire service maxim applies: “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”
Pre-hospital care has, in our lifetime, grown from a matter of providing simple “Load-and-Go” services (with a fairly poor history of success), into a complex, highly technical field that involves electronic cardiac monitoring and defibrillation, intravenous fluid therapy, and sophisticated intervention techniques, some of which were not available even in emergency rooms twenty years ago. This level of care, known as “Advanced Life Support” (ALS), has significantly improved a patient’s chances for survival and full recovery, but the procedures require more and better-trained personnel to implement them.
The standard response to a medical-aid emergency in the City of San Marino includes the engine company arriving with three trained responders including (80% of the time) one or more paramedics, and the paramedic ambulance with two firefighter paramedics. The City’s fire station is strategically located to allow arrival at any address in the City within four minutes, and therefore an engine company will usually be the first help on-scene.
When an incident turns out to be minor in nature, the first-arriving unit can always cancel other resources via radio. Another, similar question is often asked during routine duties.
Why do you have to bring all three people and the big red truck here, just for a simple inspection?
There are two reasons. First, these inspections are conducted by on-duty engine companies, and the captain must maintain his crew in a response-ready condition. The firefighters must remain together or very close-by and they must bring their fire engine along in order to respond immediately, should an emergency be reported in the city.
Second, an important part of the value of our Public Safety Inspection program is the familiarization of your local firefighters with the buildings and businesses within the city. While they check for hazards and consult with business owners on how best to eliminate or minimize the likelihood of a fire, firefighters are also familiarizing themselves with access points, high-value locations to give priority to in their firefighting efforts (typically the office area or files), potential hazards to themselves or to citizens, and possible resources to aid them in their firefighting efforts (skylights to assist in venting hot gases and smoke from the business, for example).
Why did you chop that big hole in my roof? The fire was in the kitchen, not the attic.
Good question, and the answer lies in the next thing our people did, right after the roof-venting hole was made. Other firefighters immediately entered the building and applied their water stream directly to the seat (heart) of the fire. This extinguishing strategy, called a “Direct Interior Attack,” is the key to stopping a structure fire in its tracks, and preventing any further damage. To facilitate such an attack, the interior atmosphere must be lowered from the typical 1500°F of a structure fire, to a temperature which will permit firefighters to enter and to operate. The heat goes out through the hole in the roof.
Another, less common purpose for roof venting is to eliminate a “backdraft” condition. Backdraft conditions result when a free-burning fire consumes all the available oxygen in a closed structure. Super-heated combustible gases remain, requiring only the introduction of oxygen (air) to explode. Simply opening the front door to effect entry can trigger a back draft explosion, and has killed many firefighters.
What is the Fire Triangle?
In order to have a fire, there must be three elements:
- Fuel - something which will burn
- Heat - enough to make the fuel burn
- Air - more specifically, oxygen
- Usually these three elements are expressed as a triangle, called The Fire Triangle.
- All three elements must be present at the same time to have a fire. Fire will burn until one or more of the elements is removed.
Do they actually pay you guys? Heck, I'd pay them to do what you do!
Yes. The City of San Marino employs only full-time, professional firefighters and, while you’re right about enjoying what we do, it’s probably not entirely for the reasons you may think.
Driving “Code 3” (red lights and siren), for example, quickly goes from thrilling, to chilling. Nearly half of all firefighters who die on the job are killed in traffic collisions while responding to emergencies.
However, we do derive a deep personal satisfaction from making a “Good Stop” on a structure fire, or from saving someone from a heart attack. This is not even the most emotionally satisfying part of the job. Few people will ever get to know personal satisfaction of having a person who we last saw en route to an emergency room in critical condition stop by the fire station to thank us for our part in saving their life. Something like that can keep a person grinning for weeks.
Virtually every study of “emotional rewards” of various professions, if the study includes firefighting, reports our job as number one. Few firefighters are surprised at this. However, this is a demanding job, actually more a lifestyle with strange hours, unique challenges and a “bottom line” that is, literally, Life and Death. On the downside, recent studies have shown that firefighters are prime candidates for Critical Incident Stress Syndrome, the psychological damage and behavioral changes associated with exposure to strong emotional situations where the sufferer feels powerless to intervene, or cannot integrate the sometimes horrible reality of an incident into his conscious mind.