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  1. #1
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    Default East Coast/West Coast differences

    Hi all, I'm new to this board and I am currently finishing up probation with an department in the Los Angeles area. One of the aspects of the fire service that I am fascinated with is how other folks in their parts of the country or world do the job (for example...if you think FDNY is a huge department...Tokyo Fire Department is TWICE the size and budget of FDNY) After reading as much as possible in all the trade magazines and online resources, a couple things though that I haven't yet figured out is some of the company designations that are used throughout the US.

    For example in Southern California, a rescue is an ambulance staffed with Firefighter/Paramedics. On the East Coast, to my knowledge a rescue is an dynamic company that is used for just about anything but specializes in technical rescue, according to the Sept. 2005 of Fire Engineering.

    In southern california the truck...which often is of the tillered variety, handles the technical rescue (auto extrications/building collapse/trench rescue) on top of ventilation duties, because the tractor trailor can hold so much equipment. Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems that a lot of east coast departments use quints/tandem axle trucks. Is it because of maneuverability in a large heavily metropolitan city? Can those apparatus carry as much equipment as a tractor trailor?

    Do Truck Companies on the East Coast only do ventilation? Or are they equiped with the tools to perform the same duties as the trucks in Southern California? This is where I am confused. Because if they do the same duties, isn't having a Rescue Company a bit redundant?

    A squad is an LACoFD designation for basically an paramedic pickup (dualie) that responds to ALS medical calls. Think of the old 70s TV show Emergency. What is a squad on the east coast?

    Everyone always says fires are down. In LA, unless you work in the ghetto, good luck ever getting a decent fire. Seems like for every 1 good fire you have to deal with at least 200-300 medical calls and false alarms. I used to work in Compton and that place sure did burn a lot but on the other hand we'd get at least 20+ calls a day with 3-4 calls every night. Is it just the older buildings on the east coast, those rows of houses butted right next to each other that contribute to the east coast getting "more" fire than us here on the west coast?

    EMS is a very big thing in California. It is VERY difficult to get hired nowadays if you don't have a paramedic license. All you have to do is go on Firecareers and see how many job openings there are for firefighter/paramedics and how many are for just straight firefighter. In the last month I've gone on at least 300 medical calls and not a single fire. I've heard that some east coast departments don't do EMS. My question is what do those departments do in between fires? For my department if we stopped doing EMS...we'd get like one call week...and most likely it would be a false fire alarm.

    Thanks for putting up with this rookie and his questions. I apologize for my lack of writing skills and if I inflamed anyone with the east coast/west coast thing...just trying to learn a bit everyday.


  2. #2
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    You say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to...

    There really isn't all that much of a difference between the East and West Coasts when it comes to the bread and butter fire operations. We still lay and pull lines, trucks open up, and the usual "charlie foxtrot" still occurs from time to time.

    It has been said that San Francisco is an East Coast FD that happens to be on the West Coast... they have a lot in common with the Boston FD ( they even issue leather lids!).

    The biggest difference, I think, is the fact you guys out west get some huge wildfires. Here on the East Coast, much of the areas are developed, although we do have a few areas that can be problems for us, too.

    Or course, there is one difference... you guys wear those funny looking helmets ( sorry, Bou...couldn't resist!)
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 10-30-2005 at 11:47 AM. Reason: spelling errors... posted before morning coffee!
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  3. #3
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    Thumbs up Yup!.............

    This is a topic for HUGE discussion, and one that I enjoy. Here's the Apparatus thing, from my perspective as a Chief in the Washington DC area.

    Engines - Probably the one area where there is universal acceptance of a single term to denote a specific type of equipment.

    Engine Company - Some places a Single Engine is housed by itself and is referred to as an Engine Company - Other places such as ours have 2,3, and even 4 engines in one house, running as one company.

    Trucks - If it has a big ladder on top it's a Truck, straight or tractor drawn. If it has a bucket on the end of the ladder or boom, it's a Tower or Tower Ladder. As you head toward New York and New England Trucks are usually called Ladder, or Ladder Company. Gonzo calls them Laddahs

    Squads - The biggie of diversification. Here, a Squad is a big toolbox on wheels, operated by the craziest of the crews. including me. This vehicle is also known as a Heavy Rescue, Rescue, Rescue Company, Rescue Squad, and probably a few that I haven't heard yet. They do EVERYTHING and are the pride of the fleet in most places.

    Ambulance - if it takes you to the hospital, it's an Ambulance. If it is staffed by Paramedics, it's a Medic Ambulance.

    Chief's vehicles are sometimes referred to as Buggies, from the Horse Powered era. They range from big Expeditions and Suburbans Looking like small Command Busses, to the "Unmarked Police Car" Crown Vics and Impalas (I have an unmarked Impala.)

    Utilities - Pickup trucks used for running errands, picking up hose after a job (when needed), and Misc. duties. Some have Snowplows in winter, most are 4X4s.

    Brush Trucks - Most are 3/4 ton with a skid unit in back with 100 - 150 gallons of water and a reel line.

    Hope this helps, I'll be back with more later.
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    Default East Coast/West Coast

    Leather forever!

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    Whenever I think of fire departments in california I always imagine that there is a lot of BS busy work - shoe shining, floor polishing, shining brass every day, pressed uniforms with badges and name tags, non stop rig waxing, flower planting, power washing the station exterior, endless hose painting and washing, aerobics in the morning, etc. I don't know why and know it might not be right but that is how I picture the L.A. fire dept. Anyone else?

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    Chicago
    We are actually migrating from aerobics to Pilates with optional TAI CHI. How can east coast guys like heavy leather helmets and not like heavy wooden ladders? The fire service is full of contradictions except for the conviction that this is THE GREATEST job in the world and we hit the lotto when we landed it. Peace to all my EAST COAST Brothers and Power to my WEST COAST Brothers .Even Nail in Texas
    NO ON 75 !!!!!

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    ChicagoFF, I agree with you. I see it the same as you, almost if, open heart surgery could take place on the apparatus bay floor if needed.
    FF/NREMT-B

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    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Not only east v west, but north v south. In my neck of the woods...

    Engine-engine. Includes tele-squirts under 75'.

    Pumper-reserve (back-up) engine

    Truck- Any aerial at least 75', including platforms, snorkles and quints.

    Squad-Heavy or medium duty rig with large generators, extrication equipment, SCBA refill, light towers, ventilation equipment and pretty much anything else you can think of.

    Rescue-FD paramedic unit. Can be either transport (ambulance) or non-transport (Johnny & Roy).

    Ambulance-Non-FD transport unit, usually run by a private company like AMR.

    DC-District Chief. District/area/department wide IC officer.

    Marine-Rescue boat.

    Brush-Brush/wildland rig

    There are others, but these are the main units in our system.
    Fire Marshal/Safety Officer

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Whenever I think of fire departments in california I always imagine that there is a lot of BS busy work - shoe shining, floor polishing, shining brass every day, pressed uniforms with badges and name tags, non stop rig waxing, flower planting, power washing the station exterior, endless hose painting and washing, aerobics in the morning, etc. I don't know why and know it might not be right but that is how I picture the L.A. fire dept. Anyone else?
    Yep, and when they get off duty, they drink Zimas, put on hawaiian-patterened swim trunks, and go surfing...


    As you'll see, our area's terminology is FUBARed:

    Engine - Pumps water, sprays water. Some departments designate their telesqurts as engines.

    Truck - Aerial ladders 75' and over. The hazmat team also refers to ALL of their units as trucks for some reason.

    Ladder - A telesqurt or smaller aerial under 75'.

    Tower / Tower Ladder - An aerial platform, including snorkels.

    Rescue - A general toolbox on wheels. Some are small, utility versions and some are big heavy rescues. Most departments refuse to refer to their utility vehicles as a utility vehicle because its much cooler to call it a rescue. Because of that, there's been a recent trend in the three departments in our area who have actual heavy rescues to refer to them as 'Heavy Rescue' or 'Rescue Squad', depending on preference.

    Squad - The big difference. Not a rescue engine, like New York, not a pick-up style utility vehicle like LA. To us, a squad is usually an SUV(ours is a suburban), though very few can be of the Squad 51 style. They're usually ALS or BLS and run mostly medical and manpower calls. Our squad is a 2000 Chevy Suburban and runs as a BLS medical unit.

    Medic / Bus / Buggy - A paramedic ambulance.

    Brush - Any sort of wildland truck varying from pick-ups with skid units to a full blown wildland engine.

    Tanker - A water tanker.

    Our Chiefs are numbered somewhat differently than some areas, especially Harves. For example:

    Chief 11 would be the actual fire chief.
    Chief 11-1 would be the deputy chief

    We don't use the Chief 11A, Chief 11B system.
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  10. #10
    Forum Member SpartanGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaaooo
    Do Truck Companies on the East Coast only do ventilation? Or are they equiped with the tools to perform the same duties as the trucks in Southern California? This is where I am confused. Because if they do the same duties, isn't having a Rescue Company a bit redundant?

    A truck company in the east does more than just ventilation. They also perform search and rescue. And some truck companies do carry Hurst tools and the like to do vehicle extrication. But, having a rescue is not redundant. For example, a two vehicle accident (or a traffic collision to you left coasties) with entrapment could probably be handled by a truck company's extrication capabilities. However, the tractor trailer versus a car with a tri-axle over the hill is where you call in the Rescue Co., with the airbags, rescue struts, and the more advanced tools. Also, rescues handle things like trench cave-ins, building collapses, high angle, etc.

    A squad is an LACoFD designation for basically an paramedic pickup (dualie) that responds to ALS medical calls. Think of the old 70s TV show Emergency. What is a squad on the east coast?

    Depends. A New York city Squad is a basically a rescue engine. They carry equipment to do rope rescue, vehicle extrication, and truck company duties on a fireground. But they also carry hoses and do function as engines in their first due area. A squad in DC area is generally a heavy rescue. A squad in some other areas is a ALS/BLS non-transport unit or a manpower unit.

    Everyone always says fires are down. In LA, unless you work in the ghetto, good luck ever getting a decent fire. Seems like for every 1 good fire you have to deal with at least 200-300 medical calls and false alarms. I used to work in Compton and that place sure did burn a lot but on the other hand we'd get at least 20+ calls a day with 3-4 calls every night. Is it just the older buildings on the east coast, those rows of houses butted right next to each other that contribute to the east coast getting "more" fire than us here on the west coast?

    I don't know if there are necessarily more fires, but its possible. However, the nature of building construction in the older areas of the east coast is what causes the (in my opinion, and not bashing west coast firefighters) more aggressive east coast attitude. Firefighters in Chicago and New York, for example, have to act quickly to prevent entire blocks from burning. In the west, buildings tend to be farther apart and not interconnected.
    Anthing else?
    "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

    Safety is no accident.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaaooo
    My question is what do those departments do in between fires? For my department if we stopped doing EMS...we'd get like one call week...and most likely it would be a false fire alarm.
    Thanks for putting up with this rookie and his questions. I apologize for my lack of writing skills and if I inflamed anyone with the east coast/west coast thing...just trying to learn a bit everyday.
    First, congratulations on your choice of a career as a firefighter. A few suggestons as to what you can do between calls:

    Fire prevention education programs for the public-especially in high risk areas.
    The FDNY has a very good public education program go to their site and check it out.

    Life safety training for firefighters-health and well being fitness programs. fire-ground safety. Too many firefighters die in circumstances that training and education would have prevented.


    At the end of the day, your goal is a fire-safe community. That reduces the property losses and SAVES lives-both firefighter lives and civilian lives. That is your ulitmate goal.

    just my 2 cents. All the best to you as you embark on the best career choice in the world.

    cheffie
    Last edited by superchef; 10-30-2005 at 05:17 PM.

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    Something else to keep in mind is that the east coast has been around longer. About 100 years longer! That's why theres old construction and highly populated areas. I think the FDNY was organized around the revolutionary war (somebody help me out, I don't know much about the history of New York) where as my department was founded in 1903! What is that 200+ years difference!

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    www.lafirefighter.com
    www.firechannel.org

    Yes they drink Zimas and lot's of aerobics.

    In all seriousnes, I live and work in NJ. I am from Los Angeles. LAFD is an incredible fire department.

    Chicago,
    I know were you are coming from. Being an east coast firefighter and also lived in Chicago for 10 years I can see were you could get that perception. After all it LA-LA land. Yeah Hollywood! but seriously they are awesome firefighters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpartanGuy
    Yep, and when they get off duty, they drink Zimas, put on hawaiian-patterened swim trunks, and go surfing...
    Excuse me But I DON'T SURF!!!!!!! Thank you very much

    Yaaooo

    You will also find there are differences between Northern California and Southern California, SoCal is much more built up and has had some serious issues with earthquakes and wildland fires, as a result Socal fire agencies were some of the first to seriously do mutual aid, Northern California has older cities and is not nearly as developed overall. In Northern CA you still have quite a few "old, traditional, leather helmet wearing" departments, Oakland, SF, Stockton, Hayward to name a few, I am not aware of any SoCal departments with the reputation of being "traditional", most that I am familiar with are more of the "progressive, tactical tupperware wearing" departments. Before anyone gets offended I am not trying to place a value on either of these although I do lean towards the "traditional", but keep in mind I mostly ride around in a green truck and 2.5" is LDH to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by elswappo
    Something else to keep in mind is that the east coast has been around longer. About 100 years longer! That's why theres old construction and highly populated areas. I think the FDNY was organized around the revolutionary war (somebody help me out, I don't know much about the history of New York) where as my department was founded in 1903! What is that 200+ years difference!
    This is a very good point, the East Coast dates back to the 17th century (1600's). Compare this to California, the state was founded in 1849, and there was not much population before then, the gold rush literally caused a rather vacant area to become a state in only a few years. Sacramento is the oldest city in the state and also dates to 1849, the Boston FD claims 1687 as its founding date. San Francisco FD is the oldest FD west of the Mississippi and was founded in 1851. Some of the bigger cities in SoCal were also founded around this time but most were 20 or 30 years later.

    So you have a 200 year head start on development, plus California has had a few big quakes that caused major large scale rebuilding so the buildings are newer and the codes more up to date. Chicago had a bit of a fire that burned a few buildings in 1871 but for the most part the East Coast has not seen many city leveling disasters so you can still find a fair number of 200-300 year old buildings.

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    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    A long time ago, someone wrote a nasty "East vs. West" posting in here. I saved it but wont post it because it would **** of half of the nation.

    -Bou

    PS- I used to surf, but now just surf for porn.

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    Thanks for all the replies. Learning alot here

    ChicagoFF...I've never experienced any other fire department other than the ones in California. Yes as a probie there is a lot of shoe shining, uniform pressing, etc. From my experience my department models itself after LAFD..much like surrounding agencies probably model themselves after Chicago. LAFD is a very militaristic department and with that you get a lot of the military boot camp influences. Everything is lock step and God forbid you don't shine the sides of the soles on your boots. Its just the way out here. Knowing your equipment so well that if someone asks you what kind of paint the engine is painted in (50 Seikins Red, 10 Seikins White), how many lug nuts are on the rear dualies (10 outer, 8 inner), or how much carbon fiber your Scott SCBA is wrapped in (2.6 miles of carbon fibre).. you gotta know it.

    Someone else brought it up but leather helmets yet no wood ladders? You haven't thrown a ladder until youve thrown a 120 pound 24' wood extension one man. Throwing a wood ladder, after having initially learned on an aluminum, sucks. They are waayy more expensive than aluminum, heavier than hell, awkward to throw, and take hours of sanding, scraping and laquering if you get a chip in one. All this in the name of tradition and "protection from electrical lines"...and yet we have to wear the tupperware helmets. Yes I wish my department would let us wear the traditional style helmet.

    Career fires to date since getting out of the tower in April, 2 dumpster fires, 1 5-day deployment to the Calabasas Fire. Excues my languge but rolling Code 3 on the highway with a 25 engine Convoy from 6 different agencies, 8 BC Wagons, having pretty girls waving as they pass us on the freeway and a mile high header in the distance that has so much energy that its creating its own weather system gives me a chubby LIKE NO OTHER. I love being a fireman.

    Oh yeah...live in California my entire life, except for 5 years in Denver...been to to beach less times than I have fingers. So no I don't know how to surf.
    Last edited by Yaaooo; 10-31-2005 at 03:18 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaaooo
    Someone else brought it up but leather helmets yet no wood ladders? You haven't thrown a ladder until youve thrown a 120 pound 24' wood extension one man. Yes I wish my department would let us wear the traditional style helmet.

    Career fires to date since getting out of the tower in April, 2 dumpster fires, 1 5-day deployment to the Calabasas Fire. Excues my languge but rolling Code 3 on the highway with a 25 engine Convoy from 6 different agencies, 8 BC Wagons, having pretty girls waving as they pass us on the freeway and a mile high header in the distance that has so much energy that its creating its own weather system gives me a chubby LIKE NO OTHER. I love being a fireman.
    YES- The wooden ladders are heavy and I dont care for.

    NO- No one the traditional helmets. LAFD currently issues you one of the
    best made helmets on the market for a reason. Admit you like the light
    weight and balance of it. Dont mess with something good.

    YES! Riding on a type 1 engine strike team, busting through intersections while you see a wildland header is one of the best feelings in the world. I wish the brothers on the East Coast knew the feeling.

  18. #18
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    I'll take a 5 story 1 million sq foot factory job over a 1 million acres of grass anyday and wish the brothers on the west coast could feel that rush.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaaooo
    Thanks for all the replies. Learning alot here

    ChicagoFF...I've never experienced any other fire department other than the ones in California. Yes as a probie there is a lot of shoe shining, uniform pressing, etc. From my experience my department models itself after LAFD..much like surrounding agencies probably model themselves after Chicago. LAFD is a very militaristic department and with that you get a lot of the military boot camp influences. Everything is lock step and God forbid you don't shine the sides of the soles on your boots. Its just the way out here. Knowing your equipment so well that if someone asks you what kind of paint the engine is painted in (50 Seikins Red, 10 Seikins White), how many lug nuts are on the rear dualies (10 outer, 8 inner), or how much carbon fiber your Scott SCBA is wrapped in (2.6 miles of carbon fibre).. you gotta know it.
    Yikes! I don't even know who built our engine, much less what paint is on it (other than black on top, red below!)

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    Question

    What Ive always wondered is how did the west coast fire service develope the way it has. Not so much tactics, but the other stuf like gear, polishing lugnuts, know what kind of polish is on your boots and so on. We are the same way down here.

    What I dont undrstand is, both areas were settled/developed by folks who came from the north east, starting in the mid 1800's. As such, the fire srvice should have developed the same, but didnt.

    I know in our case, if you go back far enough, most old time Chiefs here worked for a big NE city department at one time. The department I used to work for's Chief was from Chicago and the A/C was from FDNY. Yet nothing we did even remotly resembled either of these fine departments.

    What happened???
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