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Firefighters’ Jobs Include More than Just Fighting Fires

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Everyone thinks about putting out fires and climbing ladders when they think about firefighting.  We do those things but we also spend a lot of time doing things most people don’t know about.  Everything from washing the rigs to cleaning the fire station, and a whole lot more.

Every fire engine carries fire hose.  We have small hose, large hose, hoses that we use to attack a fire and hose that we use to bring water from the fire hydrant to the fire engine.  Sometimes as much as 2500 feet of hose can be found on a fire engine.  Most lengths of fire hose are 50 feet long. That means we carry around 500 lengths on each fire engine.

Each length of hose is required to be tested every year.  To test a length of fire hose, it needs to be taken off the fire engine, visually inspected, couplings marked, and then the hose is filled with water and pressurized.  The pressure in the hose must be maintained for a specified time to be sure there are no leaks or defects in the hose. After being tested, the hose needs to be marked with paint to show it was tested and of course we need to write all that down and record it in a computer.  Hose testing takes a long time.


Firefighters also spend a lot of time doing fire prevention.  The goal of most departments is to inspect every single occupancy once a year.  There are a lot of different ways we get these inspections done. Some departments have inspectors that are full time employees that do nothing but inspections.  The majority of departments send on duty firefighters out to perform annual fire inspections.  A crew of between 2 and 5 firefighters will walk through the building checking for violations.

Common violations found are expired fire extinguishers, blocked exits, and combustibles too close to furnaces. If violations are found a re-inspection is scheduled to check for corrections. More paperwork, each inspection and violation needs to be written down and recorded in a computer data base.

If you have fire hydrants in your town, they need to be inspected and maintained every year. Firefighters often get this responsibility or it may be shared with the village water department.  We don’t always flush the fire hydrants, but we do clean and grease the valve and threads and make sure the water drains from the hydrant after it is turned off.  Problems with the fire hydrants are forwarded to the proper department for repair.  Just like everything else, we need to write all this down and record it in a computer data base.

If you have a block party, there is a good chance that a fire apparatus will make an appearance. Those firefighters on that engine are on duty and will need to leave if there is a call. We spend about 30 minutes explaining our equipment at each block party.  10 block parties at 30 minutes each means that we spent 5 hours each week going to block parties.  We also spend time during the school year teaching kids to stop, drop, and roll.

Firefighter Tony Scharenbroch from the St. Tammany Fire Protection District #1 having fun and teaching the kids at the Jr. Firefighter Combat Challenge at the Camellia City Kids Fun Fest back in April. Credit: Facebook

Putting out fires is our main job, but we spend a lot more time doing these other things.

By John Morse

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