In response to my Sunday Fun about marking your gear, I received comments from across the pond asking the difference between our different units in the US, since I mentioned the need to tell us apart based on task.
So for my UK friends, and maybe my few readers not in the business, I give you the American Fire Department 101.
The work horse of the American Fire Service is the Engine Company. Originally hand pulled pumps, then steam engines, these machines supply the water for the fire fight. The Engine Company carries three main elements that make it a stand alone team. A Pump, a tank and hose. The tank is often 500-1000 gallons, depending on the reliability of water supplies and can, if need be, draw water (draft) from a static source such as a pool or lake. The pump moves the water through the manifold and out one of many outlets to fight the fire. I can’t imagine this being much different than the UK Brigade units.
In some municipalities, the engines also offer EMS response at the Basic and Paramedic level as well as extrication using multiple power tools.
At a fire the engine company will usually arrive first, do their best to secure a water supply, deploy lines, find the seat of the fire and knock it down. Even though their mission may include other tasks, this is their main purpose, water on the fire.
The Truck or Ladder Company AKA the Hook and Ladder Company
The truck company is often second or third to arrive at a fire and prefers to have access to the front in case the large ladder is needed. Although Happy prefers a 100 foot articulated ladder truck (with a driver in the rear to provide maximum maneuverability) ladders can also have buckets on the end, making them a different tool entirely.
Truck members will focus on ventilating the building of heat and poisonous gasses by opening windows and cutting holes in the roof they gained access to using their wide variety of ladders. These folks do not concern themselves with fighting the fire, that is not their job. If I am on an engine, shooting water on the fire, they are working above me cutting the roof, or behind me using thier hooks to pull the ceiling down to check for fire spread. Without them the fire could work it’s way back over our heads and emerge behind us, cutting off our escape.
Very rarely does a ladder truck carry water, and even then it is a small amount compared to the engine companies. The mission of these firefighters is not to fight fire directly, but to aid in the containment and ability of firefighters to attack the fire effectively.
At non fire scenes truck companies often provide forcible entry, advanced extrication, rope rescues and similar tasks, not to mention they are my heroes when a fire sprinkler needs to be shut down and replaced.
“God Save the Truck”
The Medic Van
And intubating with an airpack on…not as hard as it looks, but no reason not to gear down first.
I used to serve on one of these and my verdict is: You’re fooling yourself. A 60 foot elevated master stream with a framed box ladder does not a truck company make you. Ahem…
So there you have it my UK friends, a brief introduction to that which is the American Fire Service. Perhaps when MedicBlog999 gets back from his engine ride along he can explain it in more detail. Graphs and charts perhaps.