1. #1
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    Default USA GUYS: Different "roles" for firefighters....HELP!

    I've been meaning to post this thread up here for a while but never get around to it.

    In recent threads (Like the Initial Attack and Whats Wrong with this picture threads) guys from the USA have been making comments like "Guys from a truck company will grab a tool, yet engine guys just grab the hose" Or "It's what happens when you let engine guys do truck work" or "When I was working in an engine company i did A, but now i'm in a truck company I do B".

    Can someone out there please try and educate a dumb aussie from down under exactly how your "Company" system works. I've never seen anything similar down our neck of the woods. I get confused between companies and appliances. Can a company have more than one appliance? Are you always in the same company? Does the company type rely on the type of appliance? Is a truck company, a pumper? If so, what's an engine? What's a truck?

    You see, i get myself all confused and go around in circles....

    Out here we don't have any kind of system that seems to mirror this at all. We don't have "Types" of firefighters, ('Engine guys doing truck work') everyone is just a firefighter. Some may have additional qualifications, Ladder Operating, Hazmat, Road Accident Rescue etc. But everyone is, at a base level, a firefighter. This means that on scene at a structure fire, regardless of the appliance you arrived in you could be tasked to vent, force entry, do internal attack, pull hose, direct traffic or all the fun things we, as firefighters, get to do.

    It seems strange to me that you further specialise things.... or maybe i'm just misunderstanding things, hence the need for this thread :P

    I just want to make it clear here, that i'm not critising the system (Some thought I was doing that on my last 'please explain' thread...), just merely trying to understand how it all works.

    Anyway, any light some of you guys could shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

    Dave

    p.s. oh and yeah, WHAT THE HECK IS A SQUAD?

  2. #2
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    Dave -

    I'll do what I can.

    As you mentioned - in Australia, everyone is a firefighter. That is very much the same case here in the US. Everyone is trained as a basic firefighter - yet some hold additional qualifications. Some may be Haz-Mat Technicians, Technical Rescue, EMT, Paramedic, etc...

    Not all fire departments operate under the company system that you mentioned in your posting. Also - the rank structure that is encountered can vary greatly. Some departments utiliize Majors and Sergeants, others use Captains and Lieutenants, while others still use Engineers and Senior Firefighters.

    I'd have to say that it is more prevalent to find 'company specific' companies in larger cities - and paid departments; that is not to say that it is not found in volunteer departments - only that most volunteer departments must be able to be more versatile- as they don't know who exactly will be responding.

    I'll try and answer you as basically as possible.

    Engine companies are equipped with the engine- or pumper. They have a minimum of ground ladders on their apparatus. It is their main job to locate, confine and extinguish the fire.

    Truck companies (or Ladder Companies) are usually equiped with an aerial device of some sort on their apparatus. Whether it be an aerial ladder, aerial platform, articulated platform, etc... It is the primary job of the ladder to save life. However they also perform ventilation, forcible entry, and search.

    Can a company have more than one appliance?
    Typically - No. An engine company needs a pumper in order to extinguish the fire. And a ladder company needs its aerial device to accomplish its mission.

    Are you always in the same company?
    Sometimes - it depends on how your department is structured and staffed.

    Does the company type rely on the type of appliance?
    Yes. The engine company is usually equipped with what is called a 'triple combination pumper' which has a pump, a water tank, and hose.
    A ladder company usually does not have a pump. It usually on lhas the larger aerial device mounted on the apparatus.

    Does the company type rely on the type of appliance?
    Yes - very much so.

    Is a truck company, a pumper?
    No - hopefully it has been explained by now.

    If so, what's an engine? What's a truck?
    Again - I hope it has been explained.....


    Just to use the FDNY as an example - and also because they have all of the different apparatus you asked about.

    Ladder Co. - Primary responsibilty is search and saving lives. Performs ventilation, forcible entry, and search and rescue. Can be equipped with either a 'straight stick' 100 ft rearmount ladder, 100ft tillered aerial, or a 75ft or 95ft Aerialscope.

    Engine Co. - Primary responsibilty is to locate, confine and extinguish the fire.

    Squad Co. - Are equipped with a pumper, but it carries a wider array of tools- including hand tools and other equipment that would be typically found on Rescue, or Ladder Co. apparatus. Respond as an engine co. for certain alarms - and as a ladder for others.

    Rescue Co. - Carries the widest array of tools. For the rescue of firefighters and civilians alike. Jack of all trades.


    Thinks work the best when both the engine and the ladder arrive on scene around the same time. The engine establishes a water supply, and begins stretching the first line on the fire, while the ladder company ladders the roof of the fire building, forces entry to the structure, and performs an initial search. It's a coordinated attack. The engine company can be aggressive- but only if the ladder company vents the structure - releasing the built up heat - allowing the engine company to press further in.

    Teamwork!!!

    Hope I didn't ramble too much.
    Marc

    "In Omnia Paratus"

    Member - IACOJ
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    -- The opinions presented here are my own; and are not those of any organization that I belong to, or work for.

  3. #3
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    A bit of an over-simplification:

    An engine is an apparatus with a pump, water tank, and hose.

    A truck is an apparatus with an aerial device (platform, snorkel, etc.)

    A squad, sometimes called a rescue typically, has neither, but has manpower and all sorts of specialized rescue equipment.

    Engine companies typically stretch hose, secure a water supply, and put water on the fire. The truckies would have you believe that engineers are just little wet speed bumps in the hallway.

    Engineers, on the other hand, consider truckies somewhat to be somewhat lower on the evolutionary scale (after all, you can't beat the fire out with an axe.) Truck companies do things like forcible entry, ventilation, and searching for victims - perfect work for knuckle-draggers.

    Rescues, while sometimes accused of being truckies who are afraid of heights (no aerial on their rig), do specialized rescue or rescue of trapped firefighters. Depending on the area they may also have other responsibilities.

    All firefighters get the same basic training in hose-handling, forcible entry, search and rescue, etc., but where these functions are separated in the field, it becomes a point of pride and one-upsmanship as to who is more important.

    I hope this helps!
    ullrichk
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  4. #4
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    Engine Work & Truck Work are also a short-hand we use.

    Engine Work: Secure a water supply and put water on the fire.

    Truck Work: Clear a path for the hose humpers by:
    1) Getting the doors out of their way.
    2) Getting the victims out of their way.
    3) Getting the smoke out of their way.
    4) And telling them where the fire is.

    See, you have to put your smartest and strongest firefighters on the trucks, so the trained monkeys can staff the engine

    Large cities this work is often clearly defined between different companies -- engines carry few ladders & tools, ladders usually don't have hose or pumps.

    Smaller cities, suburbs, rural you get much more blending where a company sometimes does Engine work, sometimes Truck work, and sometimes both on the same fire.

    Even though most fire departments, because of their small size, don't maintain strict seperation of company duties we still refer to Engine & Truck Work in training to make sure you cover everything that needs to be done.

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    Although not difficult, company designations get complicated because there are so many of them. It may be easier to think about the basic tasks on the fire ground and then recognize that most US departments have developed a special unit, or company, to implement it.

    At a structure fire my department would do the following (OK no snickering, this a text book example):
    1). First due engine would pull up to the scene and begin fire attack. Typically our fires are small in scale and there is enough water on the engine to begin attack with little or no risk to the attack team. If this were a large or commercial building they may choose to wait for confirmed water supply.
    2). Second due engine would establish the water supply then send spare crew to the scene.
    3). Truck company begins primary search, vents the building, does a walk around the building, assist in forcible entry, ladders the building (to provide escape points to the interior crew) and anything else that needs doing on the outside. Command usually chooses the order of these tasks unless the situation is obvious.
    4). Next arriving units provide additional man power.
    5). Mutual aid provides RIT. RIT is perhaps another US named company and is basically a fully prepared crew in waiting in case the worst happens.

    Regardless of the type of vehicle I ride to the scene I am expected to perform any of the jobs listed above. In spite of the that I definitely have an affinity for truck work because my station has the truck so I know its response duties the best. Another station has the Rescue truck so they can open up a car better than I could. None the less we still are expected to have some proficiency at every task.

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    Around my area is like this:

    A Engine and truck company are like those explained above.

    But a Squad to me is an ambulance staffed with a Medic.
    My station crew has a double apparatus response. If its an EMS call we take the squad, if its fire we take the Engine. But our engine is also equiped with tools found on a ladder and rescue.

    As for command we have Chief, Asst Chief, Captain, Lt., Sr FF, FF, Probie. A Sr FF is the company officer if none are assigned to the station or absent from that scene.
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  7. #7
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    Okay.... i'm slowly getting there and starting to understand some of this.... Although it seems to me that there is no definitive answer for this question as Department A will use different terminology for the same thing as Department B.... oh well, at least I have a better understanding now than I did before. Thanks for the replies guys.

    I think partly the reason why this is so foreign to me is that the way we fight fires are worlds apart. The idea that you have two sets of fire fighters, one with tools, one with hose, is so totally against everything i've ever been taught. Nobody out here makes entry into a burning structure without a charged hoseline* and once inside, the primary job, in fact the only job, is rescue. If you come accross fire, of course put it out, but we deal with the agressive fire attack AFTER our primary search is COMPLETED. The idea here being that you'll rescue people quicker if everyone is looking for them, rather then trying to put the fire out.

    I'm not sure if this term is used elsewhere, but we use 'RECEO' to detirmine our priorities... which stands for:

    Rescue
    Exposures
    Conainment
    Extinguishment
    Overhaul

    This is only a guide and it's not like number 2 can't begin without number 1 being completed.... but as you can see the priority of rescue vs. extinguishment are very far apart....

    There are always more than one way to skin a cat.... and this is probably why the whole concept of "Truck Work" and "Engine Work" is so foreign to me....

    Finally, I just thought i'd mention that our use of ladder-type appliances out here is extremely limited. Accross our 1,200 stations we only have 9. 6 Hydraulic "Cherry Picker" type platforms and 3 "TeleBoom" types. It's also important to note that 1 of each type is a spare... so we really only have 7 in operation at any one time.

    These appliances are only placed where we see them as a nessesity, large cities with high-rise buildings or rural areas with one or two very large buildings (such as a hospital). Everyone else just makes do with ground-ladders.... We're lucky where we are as our neighbouring "support" station houses a teleboom. But even so, we don't get it moving for much, for your average 2 or 3 story house fire the boom will stay firmly on top of the truck without moving an inch.... it takes something special for us to use the big boys.

    * The only exception to this rule being high-rise and large buildings.... where the hose lines are connected and charged AFTER entry via an in-house hydrant system.....

  8. #8
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    Smile And Now........

    Dave, some of the confusion comes from the fact that in this great country, we just do not agree on everything. Names of Equipment, for example. A vehicle designed to transport a person to a medical facility is called, depending on where in the U.S. you are, any number of names or titles: Ambulance, Squad, Medic, Rescue, are four of the most common. In my area, it's an Ambulance. Another is what you call an Appliance. Here it can be a Engine, Wagon, Motor, Pumper, Triple, and several more. Other units have their variations as well, and it can get confusing to Americans too. Take a look at my station's website www.gdvfd18.com and then look at others in different areas. We all put water on Fire, but beyond that, nothing matches much from one area to another. Stay Safe....
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    In my area, it's an Ambulance. Another is what you call an Appliance. Here it can be a Engine, Wagon, Motor, Pumper, Triple, and several more. Other units have their variations as well, and it can get confusing to Americans too.
    Actually, i'm pretty sure the term 'appliance' is more synonomous with 'apparatus'. We use that term for everything, Pumpers, Tankers, Ladders, 4x4's, Ambulances, Salvage Vehicles, Rescues.... they are all 'appliances'.

  10. #10
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    Smile OK..........

    Sorry about that. I thought "Appliance" referred to pumps, and other types had their own name. BTW, in the U.S., "Appliance" means a stove, refrigerator, telly, Etc.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

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    www.gdvfd18.com

  11. #11
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    In my area, an appliance is a piece of equipment used to supply water (nozzle, master stream, gated wye, etc). An apparatus is the vehicle the appliance is carried on (engine, truck, etc).

    I agree, your company specific assignments are found most in the large cities. In our county we have 18 FD's (60+ stations) with one central dispatch system and automatic mutal aid. All firefighters are cross trained in engine, truck (ladder) and squad (heavy rescue) and ALS. Although we have county wide SOP's that determine initial unit assignments (first engine attack, second engine hydrant, etc) any firefighter can be assigned any task. All apparatus are also equiped (by county SOP) with the same basic equipment and we conduct joint training evolutions. That way, a firefighter from FD "A" should be able to function with, and operate the basic equipment from FD "B".

    On your other point, we sort of operate as you do. However, we combine search/rescue WITH fire attack. We have found that just doing search/rescue and delaying attack can leed to more problems and endanger attack crews. I'm not saying that search/rescue shouldnt be a priority, but if you find an occupant,then find yourself cut off by the fire that you let advance unchecked, your all in trouble.

    This really comes into play in a high rise building with limited egress. Better sometimes to protect occupants in a secure location inside the building and go get the fire rather than do a full evacuation before mounting an attack.

    Oh, and we never enter a structure (the fire floor in a high rise)or go up on a roof without a charged hoseline AND SCBA. NO EXCEPTIONS!

    Dave

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