Concepts of fire
Fire is a good tool but can also be a deadly nightmare; it has always fascinated and frightened us. However, the cost of fires that get out of hand is too high. Fire is a result of rapid chemical reactions or reactions in which heat and light are evolved. This happens when such factors as oxygen, heat and combustible materials are present. Fire is classified into four categories depending on the type of the fuel. The classes are; class A fires which are caused by the organic materials like cloth, wood, paper, plastics and rubber, class B fires which are caused by the flammable liquids like diesel, petrol, thinners, paints, cooking fat and wax. The third group of fires is class C fires which are mostly caused by the electrical materials and finally class D fires which are a result of flammable metals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, titanium and aluminum. Each class of fire has a different type of fire extinguisher. The most suitable fire extinguisher for class A fire is the water type of fire extinguisher which is coded red while for class B fires; it is foam type of fire extinguisher coded light cream. Carbon dioxide (CO2) type of fire extinguisher is used for class C fires and dry powder type of extinguisher is used for class D fires which is blue in color (Applied Science, n.d, par. 1).
It is important to be aware of the possible causes of fire and medical emergencies if they are to be dealt with proactively by way of anticipation, prevention, detection, protection, mitigation, fighting, suppression and extinction. Fire safety is concerned with the study of fire prevention, fire development and containment, fire dynamics, fire decay, and suppression and the means by which fire consequences can be minimized in human, environmental and financial terms. Fires cause fatal and serious injuries to occupants of buildings and inflict direct material damage to buildings and their household goods. Some fires cause indirect consequential losses such as loss of production, unemployment and lowering of exports, the occupants normally rely on the developer of the building to provide an adequate fire protection system.
Classification of fire departments in US
In the United States there are three categories of fire departments; volunteer, career and combination fire departments. This classification is based on the payor earning conditions of the employees. Career fire department has all its employees or members in full-time or part-time payment. This type of fire department does not depend on the volunteer firefighters or the paid on-call firefighters for their staffing. On the other hand, volunteer fire department has members who have volunteered themselves fully. However, this does not mean that the members are not compensated when they are called upon. Volunteer fire departments reimburse their members for training, fire calls and allowance for clothing. Fire departments that are composed of members of which some are full-time, volunteers and paid-on-call are called part-paid combination fire departments. There may be one or more staff on full-time in this type of fire department but most of the time they depend on the volunteers and the paid-on-call employees or firefighters to complement their staffing. These full-time firefighters may include; the fire inspectors, chief officers, single-engine company or dispatchers (Winconsin, 2009, par.3).
According to the school curriculum, students are required to visit a fire station during their studies to gain more information on fire safety and management. Before making a visit to the selected fire station, consent was sought from the Chief of the department Mr. Salvatore J. Cassano through the email address. He accepted our request to visit the station. The visit was to take place on Wednesday (23/09/09) from 10:00am to enable the students to have adequate time of learning. According to the arrangement, the students were to be oriented into the station by one of their career firefighters.
A Visit to Fire Department in New York City
The visit was made to the New York City fire station which is located at 1 Chase Manhattan Plz, New York, NY 10005-1401. The station’s goals were; to respond to fires, to safeguard the people and respond to medical tragedies, terrorists and disasters act to guard the properties and lives of the people who live and visit the city. They also devote themselves to render the best level of quality services through public education, investigations and training and support the needs for life safety for those individuals who live, work or visit the City of New York. The fire station in New York City is a combination fire department. It is one of the biggest fire departments in the United States. The executive staff in the department is grouped into two categories which are; the fire commissioner who is responsible for the department and the fire chief who is in charge of the operational field. Nicholas Scoppetta is the current fire commissioner while Salvatore Cassano is the current fire chief in the Fire station in New York City. Members of the executive committee are fire commissioners, chief of fire operations, chief of the department, staff chiefs, chief of the emergencies medical services and chief Marshall. Staff chiefs are composed of the chief of safety, the chief of fire prevention and the seven-city tour commanders. In the field activities, the department is divided into five region commands. In the five region commands there are nine divisions in which each is led by a deputy chief. In each division, there are four to seven groups which are led by a group leader and they have 120 to 200 officers and firefighters.
The New York City fire station has several fire fighting apparatus that assist them in carrying out their responsibilities. The first fire apparatus is engine 1 which is a 1992 Kovatch Mobile Equipment (KME) Renegade Pumper made up of 1250 gallons per minute (GPM), 30-gallon foam tank and 1000 gallon water tank. This apparatus is also equipped with hydraulic extrication equipment and automatic external defibrillator. Its ground ladders measure 35 inches by 14 inches.The second apparatus is the squad 2 which is a 2007 International Chassis and has a rescue Pumper made by the Smeal fire apparatus. It is equipped with 1250 GPM pump, 50-gallon foam tank and 1000 gallon water tank. It also carries the hydraulic extrication equipment (rams, spreaders and cutters), rapid intervention team (RIT) equipment and the telescoping ‘command light’ system (Martinelli, 2001, par.1).
The third apparatus is the engine 3 which is a 1988 Ford F-350. This type of engine is equipped with brush fire tools, front bumper-mounted winch and electric forestry hose reel. It is powered using diesel and made up of 125 GPM pump, 200 gallons water tank and 50 gallons foam tank. Engine 3 types of fire apparatus react to all occurrences that need the special operations trailer and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and also respond to all types of bush fire. The fourth apparatus is the 1976 Ford or Bean Pumper which is the engine 4 containing 1000 GPM pump, four SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) units and 800-gallon water tank. Engine 4 is fitted with automatic external defibrillator and a former engine one. This type of engine is used as the department’s engine for reserve (Martinelli, 2001, par.3).
The other important apparatus is the tanker 1 which is mostly used in areas that do not have water hydrants. It is a 1979 Chevy Kodik with a capacity of 1000 GPM front mounted pump and 1800 gallons water tank. It can unload the 1800 gallons within a period of two minutes into a potable drop tank. Another apparatus is the 1998 KME Excel Pumper that is the engine fire fitted with 1000 gallons water tank, 30-gallon foam tank and 1250 GPM pump. This type of engine is also equipped with thermal imaging camera, automatic external defibrillator, roof ventilation saws and portable gas-powered generators.To ensure that the fire department offers services to all residents despite their location; it also has the all-terrain vehicle type of fire apparatus. These types of vehicles are fitted with removable 26-gallon water tanks which have built electric-powered pumps (Martinelli, 2001, par.4).
Among the equipment used by the New York City fire station firefighters is the personal escape rope (PER) which is made by the Maine Company. For example, one of their firefighters escaped death narrowly because he had equipped himself with the PER. The fire department uses the hydraulic extrication equipment which assists them in carrying out fire drills and practicing extrication techniques. The fire extrication equipment also helps the personnel in protecting the patients properly during the rescue process. The firefighters in this department also carry pumps which they use to pump water from the nearest water source like an ocean or lake in case there is no visible fire hydrant. A fire hydrant is usually laid out in a grid system and water is supplied from two or more directions which permits pipes with smaller diameter pipes to be installed. The pipes used to make the fire hydrant should be made of steel metal because they resist corrosion and mechanical damage. Fire hydrants used during the fire fighting process should be laid underground to protect them against fires, explosions and mechanical damage. Ladders are also carried by fire department New York City to help them in rescuing an injured victim from the rooftop of a building and also ropes which they use to lower victims to the crews on the ground (Petrillo, 2009, par.1).
Other types of equipment used by this fire department are the portable fire extinguishers which range from small handheld units (3.2-kilograms) to the wheeled dry chemical unit (160-kilo grams). The frequently used types of extinguishing materials are: potassium and sodium bicarbonate dry chemicals, used for class B fires such as most flammable liquids and gases. Multipurpose dry chemical used for class A, B and C. Carbon dioxide used for electrical equipment, pressurized water used for class A fires usually in office areas containing paper and other combustible materials.
The station renders the following services to the people living in the city of New York; fire prevention, fire protection, rescue and hazardous materials improvement, fire suppression, fire investigation, fire safety education, emergency medical services and fire licensing and certifications. All the members of the New York City fire station are expected to carry out different firefighting tasks and responsibilities therefore; training is a very crucial area for them to render quality services. According to the department there is always a monthly department drill carried out on the last Monday of a month. Moreover, a company drill which is a bit smaller is carried out by the officers within the company every month. Apart from training the department also responds to incidences concerning dangerous material spills, motor vehicle crashes and specific rescue happenings. The aim of fire safety education is to increase the number of materials used in fire safety education in foreign languages and also on their website. The fire department conducts their presentations in all the schools that are situated in the City and mostly their main interest is to reach out to the people in the neighborhoods who have been affected by fatal fire incidences. Before going to schools, the department educators have to know the number of students in a certain school and they also ask for a survey map from the school management. For example in the year 2008, the department visited 762 schools and managed to reach out to about 60,000 students. In the community they render education services depending on the needs of the community. To know the needs of the community they consult the community organizations with which they collaborate when they are conducting their events.
The bureau of fire prevention is currently using the language line to conduct a device that is hand-driven in order to offer access to the translation services offered online. For effective service provision on medical emergencies, the fire department has utilized the language line to source funds and it received a grant of 50,000 dollars in the year 2008 to buy Medical Visual Language.
The station has also licensed approximately 350 inspectors who are authorized to inspect buildings and equipment to witness system performance and for the purpose of licensing and permitting the building to be used. For example in the year 2007, the inspectors carried out approximately 180,000 inspections.
The New York City fire station responds generally, to approximately 280,000 fires and non-fire incidents every year. They also act in response to about one million medical occurrences annually and preserve roughly two hundred and fifty ambulances stations and firehouses. Basically, fire is a destructor and each year so many lives are lost and others hospitalized and millions of properties are destroyed.
New York City fire station has faced war stories during its term of service. For example in the year 2006, the Fire Department firefighters went to the burning towers and 343 among them died that day. This was a difficult time for the department since they had lost such a big number of their personnel and it took about five years for them to cope with the situation. This made them identify other methods which they could use to train the new generation of their firefighters to react to any other terrorist attack. The department has known the methods that can be used to attack them and therefore they are training their firefighters on all the possible methods they can use to protect themselves as they go out to fight fires.
To deal with fires, essential fire fighting tools must be in place. Some of these tools are pump engines, ladder trucks and rescue vehicles. All the public buildings should have provision for fire assembly points, alarm bells, functional fire extinguishers and emergency water reservoirs for fire fighting. If buildings are fitted with the necessary fire equipment, it will be easier to prevent the many cases of fires reported annually. In addition, it would be easier for the firefighters to put off the fire before it causes a lot of harm to the people and the properties. It is important to be aware of the possible causes of fire and medical emergencies if they are to be dealt with proactively by way of anticipation, prevention, detection, protection, mitigation, fighting, suppression and extinction. In conclusion, fire is a potential threat to life in both established and establishing towns in our country and is capable of creating even worse threats if no prior preparation is taken.
Applied Science, (n.d). Fire types. 2009. Web.
Martinelli, M. (2009). The Largest FDNY Apparatus Site on the Web! Web.
Petrillo, M. (2009). Sterling Rope Saves FDNY Firefighter. Web.
Wisconsin, (2009). Safety and Buildings Division – Fire Department Contacts.Web.