The American Fire Service has been required to make a tremendous adaptation to its original mission since Ben Franklin was instrumental in creating the first organized fire brigade in the City of Philadelphia in December of 1736. Since then, we’ve seen significant changes in the fire service and their mission statement.
284 years later, Ben Franklin would be amazed at how technology and education have transformed the job of those professional and volunteer men and women of today’s fire service. From the protective gear they wear, which many times may exceed 70lbs in weight, the vehicles which replaced the leather water buckets that were hand–carried to the fires, to the equipment and technology which has changed the profile of the job they do and how it gets accomplished.
Today’s fire service is better trained, equipped and educated than any that have come before it. Today, approximately 6200 of the professional firefighters are women, many of them holding ranks ranging from Lieutenant up through Chief. A far cry from the days of just men who ran out of their homes and grabbed those old leather buckets.
Besides the makeup of gender within the fire service, the makeup of the call volume has also changed. Gone are the days of just sitting around waiting for a structure call. Today’s fire service sees approximately 70% of its calls dedicated to emergency medical services. They are also heavily involved in both heavy rescue, hazardous materials and vehicular accident extrication.
Therefore, never before in its 284-year history has the need for more extensive training in fire suppression been so important. “We need to be constantly training in regard to how we attack the various types of fire we come in contact with. We need to maintain those skills and improve on tactics regarding the application of various fire suppressing agents, besides just water,” said Deputy Chief David Batiato of the Marco Fire/Rescue Department.
“We have to be prudent in this training, so as to not overheat the personnel and ensure they stayed well hydrated during the training,” said Captain Leo Rodriquez who commanded the shift working that day.
The department was working on a number of skill sets that day, including how to rescue themselves if trapped within a building by punching their way out utilizing the tools at their disposal.
Another tactic that was employed that day involved entering a building and moving to a predetermined location to rescue a victim under heavy smoke conditions and making their way back out with the victim.
“The smoke generator machine was one of the best training tools we’ve purchased in the last year or so. It allows us to simulate true visibility backout by our fire crews,” said Captain Rodriquez. EPS shut down the burning of actual buildings to created similar conditions due to concerns regarding environmental impacts a couple of years ago.
The crews also employed what is known as “hydraulic ventilation” of a structure. This is where a window might be broken out and a “fog stream” deployed through that window to evacuate smoke or a hazardous chemical fog that could impact firefighters or civilians.
The department will continue to train the remainder of the week under the contractor is ready to begin demolition of the building and clear the lot.
“Maintaining our personnel’s skillsets is one of the most important things we can do to ensure everyone can be 100% ready should the call come in,” said Chief Michael Murphy, who will be capping his 50th year in the fire service when he retires later this September.