Forum 10/11

Fire Prevention 2011

Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9-15) is designated annually to commemorate The Great Chicago Fire, which occurred in 1871. Fact: On average, there are more than 1,450,000 fires each year in the United States, resulting in more than 3,000 civilian fatalities and 16,000 injuries.

Now is a good time to reflect on what we have done this past year to reduce fire deaths and property loss in our communities. Is your agency doing the same things that were done in past years to promote fire safety?

I would like to offer a few suggestions to assist you in promoting fire safety. If your agency is not currently using social media, you may want to. Ocala Fire Rescue began using social media earlier this year, after sending a few chief officers to a variety of seminars that were offered throughout the region. I would recommend talking with other fire departments that are currently using this technology, and develop a written procedure to guide your members in its use. I see merit in using social media as a tool to market your department. In these days of declining tax revenue and budget cutbacks it is comforting to know of a marketing concept that does not cost much to initiate. Occasional seasonal reminders are a good way to remind the community that fire safety is important to you, all year long.

The business community in my experience can still be a source of revenue to purchase coloring books and other items that promote fire safety. Let’s face it, there is no fire department that I know of in Florida that maintains the advertising and public education budgets that we had in previous years. Creating new business relationships and maintaining those we had in the past may generate income that is sorely needed. I recommend developing a strategy that is a win-win situation for both you and the community. For example, in exchange for a donation, you can have printed on coloring books the name of the businesses who contribute money. Make sure you follow up at a later time with the person who donated the funds to personally thank them, and show them an example of what their contribution was used for. Smoke alarms are another wonderful way to spend funds earmarked for the community. A common program among many fire departments is to supply smoke alarms to citizens who are in need and cannot afford one. A gesture can be made by firefighters to install them upon request. Remember that the community is looking at everything we do. Please critique the efforts of your agency to promote fire safety. An analysis should include what you are doing correctly and what can be improved on.

As a firefighter, I am sure, you do all the correct things on duty, your fire company performs fire inspections and you visit school children to talk about fire safety. Every member from the probationary firefighter to the most senior member in your fire station continue to learn and attend training on a regular basis to face the dangers you might face. However, I’d also like to suggest what you can do while you are off duty to help save lives.

As a responsible firefighter, your home has functioning smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher. Remember that we should practice what we preach. Please conduct fire exit drills in your home with your children and spouse. Your family should be knowledgeable about the causes of fire, how to prevent fire and how to respond should a fire occur.

We know how fast fire spreads and how much devastation can occur in just a few minutes, but does your family really know all these facts? If your family is knowledgeable about these facts, then congratulations! You have partially done your job. Now you can share this information with neighbors and relatives. I advocate at the holidays giving fire extinguishers and smoke alarms as gifts to those you love. It might save their lives. A firefighter should never truly be “off duty.”

Brian Stoothoff

Battalion Chief/Public Information Officer

Ocala Fire Rescue

Ocala, FL

The writer is a 29-year veteran with Ocala Fire Rescue, currently serving as the department’s public information officer and public education officer.


“Truck Vs. Ladder”

Fire service semantics and definitions keep life from getting boring between alarms. This is in response to “Truck Vs. Ladder,” a forum question posed on and cited in “This Month on” in the August issue, in which “Auxman” asks: “Is whether a vehicle a ‘truck’ or a ‘ladder’ up to the individual fire department or are there some official guidelines on this? I’ve seen pretty much the same vehicle with the same equipment referred to both ways. Where do quints fit into this?”

With 47 years in the fire service, I’ve encountered a number of “truck company or aerial ladder” references to toss into the discussion. Let me list a few: hook-and-ladder company, ladder company, serial ladder company, service ladder company, tower ladder, platform, Snorkel, quint and “stick.”

The strangest was an apparatus without a turntable or aerial ladder. It had a 500-gallon water tank, HP pump and two reels with booster lines. From the rear, it stored a 5-foot Bangor ladder with poles, a 35-foot extension ladder, a 24-foot extension ladder, two 16-foot straight “wall” ladders, two roof ladders with hooks, an attic ladder and a step ladder. While it was more of a “squad truck,” it was called “Ladder 1.”

With all the quints and platforms (baskets) in the mix, maybe the best thing to do is use the more generic term “aerial” for anything with an extended reach. But then we’d have to find something else to debate. Next, it’ll be “water tower” vs. “tele-squirt”! This keeps “the job” interesting between calls.

Michael R. Hargreaves Sr.


Union-Lakeville Fire Territory

Lakeville, IN Editor-in-Chief Peter Matthews responds: This question, posed by a member of the Forums, sparked more than 40 responses that show the designation is made by each department and can go from 10 Truck in one district to Ladder 10 in the next district. One user remarked that it is related to the National Incident Management System (NIMS); another said it is based on the department’s tradition. View the thread and share how you name your aerial ladder apparatus at