This month, Chief Pam San Fillippo gives us a rundown of essential fire-fighting training and equipment that our Bay Fire Department needs to save both lives and property.
What It Takes To Do the Job
Training: New recruits must complete a seven-week basic training course at the state fire academy within one year of hire. Tuition and related expenses will cost at least $2,000.00. After this training (since firefighters are called to almost every emergency you can imagine) they spend their careers in continuing training for emergencies that are too numerous to list. Chemical leaks or fires, medical and trauma emergencies, vehicle extrication, high-angle rescue, fire investigations, fire prevention, and of course structural and vehicle firefighting are a few examples.
Fire departments must continue learning new techniques and purchasing different equipment to manage emergencies in a world that changes almost daily, Everything from hybrid vehicles to deadly street drugs to acts of terrorism are the new dangers of modern firefighting that were unheard of not so long ago.
Protective Gear: Firefighters can’t go into burning buildings or work around torn metal at vehicle accidents without very specialized clothing. Outfitting a firefighter with a few uniforms and a set of custom-fit firefighting gear (helmet, coat, pants, boots, hood and gloves) carries a price tag of about $3,000.00. As the clothing ages and loses the ability to protect the firefighter it must be replaced, usually every 5 to 10 years - or immediately if it becomes damaged.
Breathing Protection: In order to work in superheated air and toxic gasses, special clothing isn’t enough. Without respiratory protection the firefighter will not survive. The air tank and mask that firefighters wear is a “Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus” or “SCBA” (not to be confused with SCUBA tanks!) that allows them to breathe in otherwise deadly environments. It is the single most important piece of equipment a firefighter uses, and each unit carries a price tag of about $5,000.00. These are also replaced about every 10 years.
Equipment: Trained and protected in the right gear, our firefighter is ready to work. Now we have to get the firefighter to the emergency with the tools needed to handle... well, anything! Of course we need a vehicle - a fire truck. Average price tag: $400,000. Add another $50,000 for fire hose and nozzles, saws, axes, pry bars, flashlights, bolt cutters, various adapters, extrication tools, medical equipment, radios and communication equipment - and all of that is carried on each fire truck the department has in service.
Every emergency we respond to is different from the last, and the next. There is no such thing as a “routine” emergency. Our equipment sees a lot of rough use, and repairs and maintenance are expensive and seemingly never ending. Firefighters do what they can in-house, but most equipment repairs require specialized knowledge and tools, which of course, equals a hefty repair bill.
With five fire trucks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools and equipment, the costs involved in operating our fire department add up quickly. Yet, the finest fire truck and the best equipment money can buy is worth nothing without someone willing and able to use it anytime, anywhere, under any conditions, for anyone. For that task we need a firefighter, the one asset I hope you will agree is “priceless."
Just For Fun... Fire Equipment From Bygone Years