I was reading the battalion comments in the Chesterfield Fire & EMS Daily Business Plan. The chief officer was writing about some of the recent fires that presented challenges to fire crews. In the fires discussed, units arrived to houses that had heavy fire involvement upon arrival. Let’s address the responsibilities of the fire service and the public once a fire occurs.
Responsibilities of the fire service
•A rapid turnaround following an incoming call by the Emergency Communications Center.
•Once the call is transmitted to the stations, firefighters need to be ready to respond at all hours of the day and night.
•Firefighters should take the shortest and safest route to an emergency incident while operating their unit in a way that accounts for the safety of the crew and public. This shows the need for more fire stations or the relocation of fire stations.
•Firefighters knowing their job when they arrive.
Responsibilities of the public
•Getting out and staying out of a burning home. I recently read about a homeowner who was injured in a fire. The report said the person escaped, but returned to attempt to rescue pets. Get out and stay out!
•Someone needs to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Get to safety, then make the call. In my years as a dispatcher, I received numerous calls of a working incident. Never assume that someone else will call 9-1-1.
•Stay calm when talking with an emergency communications operator and answer all of their questions to the best of your ability.
There are many things that contribute to fires spreading rapidly in homes today. Building construction has moved to more lightweight materials and an open layout. Furnishings and other contents lend to the speed of fire growth. It is not your job to understand fire the way firefighters do, but you must work to prevent fires, have a means of early warning (smoke alarms) and a practiced home escape plan. A house can be rebuilt, but losing a life is a terminal and tragic end.
One other issue that firefighters are facing is the proximity of homes to one another. Builders and developers work to turn limited land space into the greatest profit. What could have been one lot becomes land on which six homes are built. Uncontrolled fires put off heat and fire brands. With houses being so close, the heat and fire brands can easily start a fire in another house. One recent fire skipped one house with asphalt shingles and started another fire at the next house down with cedar shake shingles. Firefighters must deal with many different factors when fighting a fire, including exposure control. Exposures are those buildings or things near the original item on fire that the fire could spread to. Examples would be a woods fire that extends to a shed, house or garage; a house fire that extends to a deck or roof of another house in the neighborhood; or a car fire that extends to another car or building. One should realize that a fire that starts elsewhere could spread to your property by many different means. Never say, “It cannot happen to me.”