A wildfire staffing study released by San Diego State University this week concluded that by increasing the number of firefighters on a hose lay, the efficiency and effectiveness and overall ability to control a wildland fire significantly increases.
The $30,000 study was conducted by the university's College of Sciences' Field Stations Programs and was funded by the CDF Firefighters union.
The study found that changing the staffing from two to three firefighters on extended hose lays can increase efficiency by as much as 50 percent. Additional increases were observed when comparing three-person crews to four-person crews but no significant increases were observed when increasing the staff from four to five.
The study, which took over eight months to complete, evaluated the different staffing levels on both a 1,000-foot and 2,000-foot simple hose lay. The trials were conducted with Cal Fire firefighters from diverse ages, experience levels and physical conditions participating. Each firefighter wore full PPE.
At the beginning of each trial, the resting heart-rate was recorded for each firefighter and was recorded again at the end. Each crew was given a GPS and heart-rate monitor to record the total distance traveled and to track the heart-rate throughout the trial.
During the trials, the firefighters produced a continuous "wet line" while they advanced the hose. The trial was run at 100 psi using a 3/8-inch smooth bore nozzle.
Overall, the average time to extend the hose-line an additional 100 feet was over one minute. As more staff was added to the hose-lay, the time it took to lay 100-feet of hose decreased.
According to the study, this is the first time that the potential effect on different wildfire staffing levels has on attack effectiveness and firefighter health has been critically and scientifically evaluated.