Hazmat Team Spotlight: Omaha, NE, Fire-Rescue Department

Located on the banks of the Missouri River at the Eastern end of Nebraska, Omaha is the largest city in the state.Slideshow Images: Omaha, NE, Fire-Rescue Department Located on the banks of the Missouri River at the Eastern end of Nebraska, Omaha is the...


Located on the banks of the Missouri River at the Eastern end of Nebraska, Omaha is the largest city in the state.

Slideshow Images: Omaha, NE, Fire-Rescue Department

Located on the banks of the Missouri River at the Eastern end of Nebraska, Omaha is the largest city in the state. Omaha sets on the West side of the river across from Council Bluffs, IA.

The Omaha Fire-Rescue Department provides fire, rescue, hazardous materials, and EMS services to 427,872 people within 193.18 square miles. Including the suburban areas adjacent to the city, the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan area is home to over 1.2 million people. In addition, through mutual and automatic aid, fire, rescue and hazmat service extends into Douglas County and other surrounding areas.

Omaha's organized fire service began on May 2, 1860 with the formation of the Pioneer Hook & Ladder Company 1. On July 10, 1866, due to the increased growth of the city a second fire company was formed, Fire King 1 which operated a hand engine purchased by the city from Davenport, Iowa. Engine companies 2 and 3 were soon organized to assist the existing companies.

Continued rapid growth resulted in the consolidation of fire companies in the city into the Omaha Fire Department on April 23, 1875. The newly created fire department was volunteer except for the offices of chief engineer (who received a salary of $1,500 per annum) engineers, drivers and stokers. In addition to the Omaha fire companies, the Union Pacific Railroad formed the "Durant Engine and Hose Company No. 1," in January 1868 for fire protection of railroad properties. This fire company was not part of the Omaha Fire Department but was subject to its call upon special notice from the chief. The organization was purely voluntary, however, no one but employees of the Union Pacific Railroad were eligible for membership. Upon several occasions the company was called upon by the Omaha Fire Department for assistance. The first paid firefighters in the Omaha Fire Department started work in 1867.

Modern day Omaha fire companies are housed in 24 stations located through out the city. Omaha Fire has approximately 661 uniformed personnel led by Acting Fire Chief Mike McDonnell, who was recently appointed to replace Chief Robert Dahlquist who retired after 26 1/2 years of service to the Omaha Fire Department. Omaha firefighters operate 24 engine companies; nine truck companies; 15 medic units; three rescue units; two hazmat units; six battalion chief units and one paramedic shift supervisor unit. Additional equipment includes six brush units; one command vehicle; one technical rescue truck; two mass casualty trailers and one Medi-cart.

EMS and rescue calls make up about 73 percent of the 35,688 annual total alarms. Fire calls account for approximately five percent and other types of alarms account for the other 22 percent. Omaha Fire does not provide fire protection to Eppley Airport which has its own fire department operated by the Omaha Airport Authority.

The Omaha Fire Department began organized hazmat response in the city in 1985. Initially four firefighters were assigned to an engine company with dual responsibility for fire suppression/EMS and hazardous materials response. During the mid 1990's the hazardous materials team became dedicated with four team members assigned to the hazardous materials unit per shift. Their first hazmat response unit was a delivery truck type vehicle. The hazmat team was assigned to a station along with an engine company. Engine company personnel were assigned to a back-up hazmat role in addition to normal engine company responsibilities. In 1995 the Omaha Fire Department created a Special Operations Program which included hazmat, rope rescue, trench rescue and rapid intervention response.

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