The Firefighter reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from wikipedia.org)

Firefighter

Spread the word about a children's charity with social media
Firefighters, sometimes called firemen, are persons who are trained and equipped to put out fires, rescue people and in some areas provide emergency medical services. The fire service, also known as the fire brigade or fire department in some countries, is one of the emergency services.

Firefighting is the process and profession of extinguishing fires. Firefighting is important in urban areas where firefighters are on constant standby; in wildland areas, and on board ship.

Fire-fighting Skills

Note: this mostly discusses urban firefighting. See bushfire for a discussion of forest fires.

Firefighting has several basic skills: prevention, self-preservation, rescue, preservation of property and fire control.

Prevention

Prevention attempts to assure that no place simultaneously has heat, fuel and air. Most prevention programs prevent heat. Many fire officials recommend that every building, including residences, have sprinklers. Correctly working sprinklers in a residence greatly reduce the risk of death from a fire. With the small rooms typical of a residence, one or two sprinklers can cover most rooms.

Self Preservation

Self-preservation is critical. The basic technique firefighters use is to know where they are, and to avoid hazards. Current standards in the United States require that firefighters work in teams, using two-in, two-out whenever in an IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) environment. Tools are generally carried at all times, and a special device called a PASS device is commonly worn to alert others when a firefighter stops moving for a specified period of time. In the United States, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) sets a number of standards for firefighters. These standards may be adopted as law by state or local governments, or enforced by the firefighting organizations on their own.

Rescue

Rescue consists of searching, and then removing people that are alive. Animals may also be recovered, if resources and conditions permit. Generally triage and first aid are performed outside. The general form of rescue is to shuffle through the structure with the right hand against the wall, or utilizing a tool. Many fire departments follow a two-in, two-out rule, and in a large room the second person would follow behind the first, usually on their immediate left. This is called a right hand search. There is also a left hand search, which is the same thing except the right and left are reversed. Remember to search beds and cupboards, and identify oneself to victims. Many children are very frightened of fire-fighters in breathing masks.

Rescue may also involve the extrication of victims of motor vehicle accidents. Here firefighters use spreaders, cutters, and rams, tools more commonly known as the Jaws of Life. More technical forms of rescue include subsets such as rope rescue, confined space rescue, and trench rescue. These types of rescue are often extremely hazardous and physically demanding.

Property

Buildings that are made of fuel, such as frame buildings, are different from fire-proof buildings such as concrete high-rises. Generally, the fire in a fire-proof building can be limited to a floor. Other floors can be safe simply by preventing smoke inhalation and damage. A burnable building must be evacuated.

Property preservation is a great help to people. Most fires can be limited to burning only the upper part of a frame structure. If possible, turn off the gas, electricity and water, and during the search, tip all the movable property into the middle of a room, and cover it with a heavy cloth tarp. This reduces damage from water, smoke and burning embers. If the structure doesn't catch, it's very helpful to ventilate it to reduce smoke damage.

Fire Control

Firefighters at an urban--wildfire interface. This is becoming an increasing concern as people build more homes in and near forested landEnlarge

Firefighters at an urban--wildfire interface. This is becoming an increasing concern as people build more homes in and near forested land

Fire control consists of depriving a fire of fuel, oxygen or heat. The standard way is to remove heat by spraying the burning solid fuels with water from a fire-hose. Some fuels float on water, and are actually spread by water (such as gasoline). Some departments can use chemical dust even on large fires. These are preferable because the property damage can be so much less than with water. Petroleum fires are more often smothered with foam. In electrical fires, the crucial thing is to turn off the electricity.

Most fires spread as hot gases move through the structure. Some fires can be controlled or limited by venting these gases to the outside. This can aggravate a fire if it introduces new oxygen, or permits a draft past fuel or structure, so it should be attempted only by veteran fire fighters.

Firefighters are constantly training and updating their skills on equipment. Some of their tools include extrication equipment, ladder trucks, tanker trucks, pumper trucks, and ambulances.

History of fire brigades

The history of organized combatting of structural fires dates back at least to ancient Egypt where hand-operated pumps may have been employed to extinguish fires. Roman attempts date back to the second century AD, where Ctesibus of Alexandria invented a pump that could deliver water to a fire. However, such attempts were of limited value given large structural conflagrations that would sweep through Rome as they did. As a result, Roman vigils were used to combat fires, using bucket brigades, as well as poles and hooks to tear down buildings in advance of the flames. It is generally thought that this is where the "hook" in "hook and ladder company" comes from.

Rome suffered a number of serious fires, most notably the 19 July, 64 AD fire that started near the Circus Maximus that eventually destroyed 2/3rds of Rome. The emperor Nero was blamed for the conflagration, and Nero may in fact have allowed the fire to burn. At least one Roman may have become very rich from this fire, buying properties in advance of the flames and using teams of slaves in attempts to defend his recent aquisitions from being consumed.

The next great city to experience such a need for organized fire control was London, which suffered great fires in 798, 982, 989, and the Great Fire of London in 1666. This last fire, which started in a baker's shop on Pudding Lane, consumed about two square miles of the city, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Still, it was not until the Dutch inventor Jan Van der Heiden invented the fire hose in 1672. Constructed of flexible leather and coupled every 50 feet (15 m) with brass fittings, the length and connections remain the standard to this day.

Meanwhile, in America, Jamestown, Virginia had been virtually destroyed in a fire in January, 1608. Fire "wardens" were appointed in New Amsterdam in 1648, before it was known as New York. Wardens were to patrol the cities to inspect chimneys. "Rattle Watches" were performed at night by 8 appointees, who were to rouse citizens to fight fires by bucket brigade if necessary. In Boston, serious fires in 1653 and 1676 had inspired the city to take greater measures towards combatting fire.

The fire engine was developed by Richard Newsham of London in 1725. Pulled as a cart to the fire, these manual pumps were manned by teams of men and could deliver up to 160 gallons per minute (12 L/s) at up to 120 feet (40 m).

Ben Franklin created the "Union Fire Company" in 1736 in Philadelphia, the first volunteer fire company in America. There were no full-time paid firefighters in America until 1850. Even after the formation of paid fire companies in the United States, there were disagreements and often fights over territory. New York City companies were famous for sending runners out to fires with a large barrel to cover the hydrant closest to the fire in advance of the engines. Often fights would break out between the runners and even the responding fire companies for the right to fight the fire and, therefore, the insurance money that would be paid to the company that fought it.

Napoleon Bonaparte is generally attributed as creating the first "professional" firefighters, from the French Army, known as Sapeurs-Pompiers. Created under the Commandant of Engineers in 1810, the company was organized after a fire at the ballroom in the Austrian Embassy in Paris which injured several dignitaries.

In the UK, organized firefighting arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, when the Edinburgh Fire Engine Establishment was formed in 1824, led by James Braidwood. London followed in 1832 with the London Fire Engine Establishment.

The first horse-drawn steam engine for fighting fires was invented in 1829, but not accepted in structural firefighting until 1860, and ignored for another two years afterwards. Internal combustion engine fire engines arrived in 1907, built in the United States, leading to the decline and disappearance of steam engines by 1925.

Today, fire and rescue remains a patchwork of paid and volunteer responders. Typically, rural areas consist of volunteers while paid organizations dominate cities and urban areas. There are exceptions.


National Information

France

Reflecting the rural nature of much of the country, the Volunteer Fire brigade (SPV), with over 190,000 firefighters is the largest firefighting force in France. In addition to being called out from work to attend an incident, they may be on standby at firestations outside their working hours. The Professional Fire Brigade (SPP) numbers over 30,000 firefighters, employed by the
départements and working on shifts. In some towns there is a mixture of professionals and volunteers, in others only one or the other.

In Paris and Marseille, the fire brigades are made up of military personnel, but under the control of the Ministry of the Interior in a similar way to the Gendarmes. The Paris brigade (BSPP) has around 7 000 firefighters, and the BMPM in Marseille has over 2000.

French firefighters tackle over 3.6 million incidents each year: 10% fires, 10% traffic accidents, 59% other help to people, 21% other incidents (gas escapes, stuck elevators, etc).

Miscellanea

In popular literature, firefighters are usually depicted with Dalmatian dogs.

See also