What Firefighters Do

Fire fighting is no easy task. Here are some basics about these truly heroic people.

If you live in a small town or community, your fire fighters are probably volunteers who are on an on-call basis. This means they are not paid staff and may have other jobs in addition to fire fighting. If you live in a large metropolitan city or area, the firefighters are usually paid full time wages.

When you dial 9-1-1 and report a fire, 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.

A Firefighter's Duties

Each truck or ‘rig’ has a driver, who gets the fire fighters safely to the fire. The driver also operates either the ladder or the water pump, depending on the type of truck he or she is driving.

Each truck also has a captain. The captain’s job is to oversee the firefighters and the best way to fight the fire. When the truck arrives on site, the captain will head into the house. The captain will "size-up" the fire - checking where it is located, its size, where it's spreading, and what type of fire it

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. In a fire, smoke and heat can get trapped in the house, making it difficult for the firefighters to do their job. Using the ladder truck, firefighters often make holes in the roof of the house to allow some of the heat to escape. Firefighters break windows to allow heat and smoke to escape as well as to access a room, if they cannot get in through the door.

Often firefighters will also make holes in walls, called ventilating. Fires can spread through many small areas, including the space between the walls and floors. The hole in the wall allows fire fighters to see where the fire has spread and where they need to try to extinguish it.

Firefighters might also move your belongings to another area in your house or possibly outside. Furniture and other items may be on fire or smoldering meaning they will need to be hosed down to stop the fire from spreading. Your belongings also act as kindling for the fire, know that they might be removed.

After the Fire

After the fire has been extinguished, fire fighters leave to go back to the station. At the station, 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, 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.

Updated 5/2009