What Firefighters Do
Fire fighting is no easy task. Here are some basics about these truly heroic people.
Volunteer — Unpaid firefighters on an on-call basis, who may have other jobs in addition to fire fighting. Common in small towns or communities.
Paid — Paid firefighters. Usually in large metropolitan cities or areas.
How Firefighters Respond
- A fire is reported
- The fire emergency response plan for your area goes into action.
- The dispatcher notifies the fire department, which notifies its team.
- When a volunteer firefighter is called, he or she drives to the station to meet at least three other firefighters before the truck leaves.
What Firefighters' Duties Are
The driver drives the truck or "rig" that gets the fire fighters safely to the fire, and operates either the ladder or the water pump, depending on the type of truck.
The captain of each truck oversees the firefighters and determines the best way to fight the fire.
What Happens Onsite
Once at the scene, the captain heads into the building and "sizes up" the fire - checking where it's located, its size, where it's spreading, and what type of fire it is.
The firefighters start advancing the fire hose line and run into the structure to fight the fire. Aside from spraying water, they will also attempt to rescue trapped or injured persons and administer first aid before the ambulance crew arrives.
Firefighters also make holes in the roofs, walls and break windows. This allows some of the heat and smoke to escape and, in the case of the windows and walls, provide access to rooms if the doors are blocked.
"Ventilating" refers to holes in walls, which enable firefighters to see where the fire has spread and where they need to try to extinguish it.
They may remove belongings such as furniture and other items to another area or possibly outside, to prevent them from becoming "kindling" for the fire. Any smoldering items will be hosed down to stop the fire from spreading.
What Happens After the Fire
After the fire has been extinguished, firefighters return to the station, where they reload and change their equipment to prepare for the next call. The fire chiefs and captains file reports based.
An arson investigator, fire chief, and/or state fire marshal will be sent out to the fire site to begin investigating the cause of the fire. The fire marshal representative works with the local department on investigating the cause of the fire.
If it is a serious fire and you may have to live outside of your home, the fire department may contact the Red Cross to assist you with your immediate needs such as food, shelter and personal items you may need. The fire department will also arrange a walk-through with you in order to discuss the damage and next steps to take.
At this time, you may be allowed to take personal belongings (clothes, important documents, jewelry, photos) with you. If you do take items with you, you may be asked to fill out a form listing a description of the items you are taking.
Know that if the cause of the fire is still being investigated, you may not be able to take other things with you (i.e. couches, TVs, computers) because they may be linked to the cause of the fire.
The fire department may also assist or help you find a company, to further secure your property from looting or weather damage.
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