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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fire Dogs

Why are Dalmatians known as “fire dogs”?

The origin of the Dalmatian breed can be traced back centuries.  Originally from the Island of Dalmatia, which is a region of Croatia that lies along the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, these mild-tempered dogs were first brought to England in the early 17th Century.  It was soon discovered that these dogs had a calming effect on horses, which were obviously the primary mode of transportation in those days.  Horseman would keep Dalmatians in the barns where strong bonds would be established between horse and dog.  When the time came to enter into battle, Dalmatians would run alongside the horses keeping them occupied and distracted from the chaos unfolding around them.
As time passed, Dalmatians continued to be utilized as transportation evolved from horseback to wagon and then stagecoach.  Because of the Dalmatian’s tendency to take up position to the horse’s flank and run alongside them, the breed became known in many cultures as “Coach Dogs”.  If you look at a Dalmatian you will see that they resemble a greyhound in their design (the dog, not the bus).  They are a very physical breed with a muscular body and can run great distances without tiring.  It was a common sight throughout the 18th and 19th centuries to see a pair of Dalmatian dogs traveling with stagecoaches and covered wagons to “run interference” and protect the horses from snakes, wolves, and other potential threats.  At night the dogs would sleep with the horses to watch and warn of impending horse thieves.
As the fire service evolved from hand-drawn to horse-drawn fire apparatus, the evolution of the Dalmatian’s role was a natural one as well.  The dogs would keep the horses company in the “fire barn” during long stretches of inactivity, and then spring to action along with their equestrian counterparts when the fire bell rang.  Just as they had for centuries, the dogs would run alongside the horses as they responded to the call for help.  Instead of protecting against wolves, snakes and other threats, however, the Coach Dog’s role was now to keep the horses focused amid all of the blaring bells and whistles while at the same time maintaining an eye out for curious children who may tend to wander in the path of a responding steamer fire engine.  At the scene of a fire, the dogs would once again keep the horses calm and focused in the midst of the chaos taking place around them.
It is because of this long history that the Dalmatian remains indivisibly tied to the fire service today.  While the horse-drawn steamers have long since been replaced by modern mechanical fire apparatus, the tradition of these valuable team members lives on.   
While most people are familiar with the black and white variety, Dalmatians can also have red spots or liver (brown) spots as seen here.  Liver spotted Dalmatians usually have blue eyes as opposed to the dark brown found in black-and-white varieties. 
Did you know that the Dalmatian’s skin is the same color as its spots?  So, if a Dalmatian ever goes bald it would still look like…a Dalmatian!     

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Station Life: The Self Contained Breathing Apparatus

This week’s Station Life focuses on an important piece of firefighting equipment: the SCBA, sometimes also known as an airpack.

A firefighter’s SCBA, or Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, is somewhat similar to the SCUBA tank system that divers use. It is composed of shoulder and waist straps as well as a pressurized bottle of air and gauges to let the firefighter know how much air remains in the bottle. It is often mistakenly believed that a firefighter’s airpack contains pure oxygen, but the bottle is really only full of compressed ambient air, just like what you are breathing right now.

Firefighters rely on their SCBA to protect their lungs when working inside a burning building, at a car fire, or when dealing with a potentially hazardous material. The airpack has a hose and a regulator that connect to the face mask firefighters wear. The air flowing into the mask is only delivered under two circumstances; if the firefighter takes a breath or if the mask becomes dislodged.
The reason that air flows if the mask becomes dislodged is so that it won’t be full of smoke when the firefighter puts it back in place. Brentwood Fire and Rescue also equips its firefighters with voice amplifiers, which clip onto the mask and make it easier for them to communicate. A voice amp can be seen attached to the right side of the mask in the photo above. While these devices make it easier for firefighters to hear each other, they sometimes give the firefighter a robotic or ‘Darth Vader’ sounding voice. It is important for children to understand that although a firefighter in full gear may look and sound scary, they must never try to hide if they are in danger. Firefighters take every opportunity to demonstrate their gear to kids to help them understand this and take away some of their fear.

The device shown above is known as a P.A.S.S. device or alarm. These turn on automatically when the bottle on the SCBA is turned on. If a firefighter becomes disoriented or trapped, they can activate a very loud alarm to help other firefighters find them. Additionally, if a firefighter stops moving, the alarm will automatically activate. If you have ever watched footage from September 11, 2001 and noticed what sounds like numerous odd sounding car alarms going off in the background what you are probably hearing are activated P.A.S.S. devices.

This device is attached to one of the shoulder straps on an SCBA. It shows the firefighter how much air remains in the current bottle and allows them to activate or silence the P.A.S.S. device. An example of how this works and what a P.A.S.S. device sounds like can be viewed here:

Click the video above to hear a P.A.S.S. alarm
Each bottle also has a gauge built into it. This way firefighters can verify that they have a full bottle at the beginning of their shift before they respond to any emergencies. Spare full bottles can be quickly swapped out for empties, allowing the firefighter to get back to work.
Special brackets are built into the seats on fire apparatus. These brackets secure the airpacks for storage and transport while also allowing firefighters to don their pack while enroute to an emergency without having to remove their seatbelts. Once a firefighter arrives on scene, they can unbuckle and step off the truck ready to go.
So there you have it. Firefighters rely on their SCBA to keep them safe in all sorts of dangerous situations. Just remember, no matter what they look like, it’s still one of your friendly Brentwood Firefighters behind the mask!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fire Chief's Briefing for February 11 through February 16, 2013

Here is a summary of Brentwood Fire and Rescue’s emergency responses for the period of February 11 through February 16, 2013.
We responded to 40 emergency calls for service. 
These calls can be broken down into the following categories:
EMS/Rescue: 27
Hazardous Condition: 3
Service Call: 3
Good Intent: 2
False Call: 5
Here is an overview of significant events from this period’s activities: 
Thursday, February 14 at approximately 9:18 am:
E2 was dispatched to a local athletic club for a report of an unresponsive PT. Upon arrival crew members made contact with the PT who was sitting on the floor but awake, alert and oriented to what was going on. The PT had started a new diet the previous day and felt that they may have overdone it at the gym. Bystanders reported that the PT passed out, hit their head on the wall and was unconscious for approximately 30 seconds. Crew members assessed the PT and found all vital signs within normal limits with no signs of trauma, but the PT decided to seek further medical care due to never having passed out before. Care was transferred to EMS before the PT was packaged for transport to an area hospital. 
Thursday, February 14 at approximately 11:48 am:
E1 was dispatched on a report of an unresponsive PT. Upon arrival crew members located the PT lying unconscious on the floor. As the PT was being assessed, manual spinal immobilization was performed along with a sternal rub, which caused the PT to awaken, but they were confused as to what was going on and how they ended up on the ground. No obvious injuries were found but vital signs revealed low blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels. E1 established an IV prior to transferring care to EMS. The PT was packaged for transport and loaded into an awaiting ambulance before being taken to an area hospital.
Saturday, February 16 at approximately 3:05 pm:
E2 and R1 were dispatched to a local facility on a report of a smell of natural gas. Upon arrival, crew members located the gas meter and determined that it was showing higher than ordinary flow rates. By following the gas lines into the building, E2 was able to find a leak in the boiler unit. The local gas utility company responded to the scene and secured the gas to the boiler. Building maintenance was made aware of the deficit and plans were made to have the issue corrected on Monday. With no further hazards found, all units cleared the scene and returned to quarters.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Station Life: Do Firefighters Really Leave Their Boots in Their Pants?

Today’s Station Life answers two burning questions: Do firefighters really leave their boots in their turnout pants, and for that matter, why is it called turnout gear?

A set of turnout gear staged and ready to go at the Engineer’s door of Ladder 1

Brentwood Fire and Rescue requires that their Firefighters be able to respond to a call in less than 60 seconds. That means that as soon as a dispatcher notifies them of the call, the clock starts, and they now have less than one minute remaining to ‘turn out’, or put on their gear, get on the truck and depart the station for the call.

Training plays a key role in meeting this standard, but being able to just step into your boots and pull up your pants definitely helps! Having your gear waiting by the fire truck doesn’t hurt either. In the photo above, the firefighters have their boots waiting by their doors while their coats are lying just inside the cab, waiting to be donned. Each firefighter has a preference for how they like their gear to be laid out, usually one developed through lots of practice and years of experience.

Another frequently asked question is “why is it called turnout gear?” The name turnout gear most likely comes from one of the definitions for the phrase ‘Turn Out’, which can mean “to call (as the guard or a company) out from rest or shelter and into formation”. That seems pretty fitting since a fire company is expected to leave the comfort of the station to respond to an emergency (turning out and gearing up) regardless of time of day or weather conditions.

You may also hear a firefighter’s protective equipment referred to as bunker gear or night pants. These terms both come from when firefighters wore a pair of rubber boots that came three-quarters of the way up their legs. In addition to these three-quarter boots firefighters would wear a long coat that hung past the top of the boots. When a firefighter went to bed at night, he would keep a pair of pants and a set of boots by his bed. These were easier to quickly put on in the middle of the night than a pair of pants and the three-quarter boots separately. Since this gear was kept in the bunk room, it became known as bunker gear. Eventually this would evolve and become part of a modern firefighter’s protective equipment.

So there you have it. Firefighters really do leave their boots in their pants to speed up the process of getting ready to respond to a call, and they’ve been doing it for years and years.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In case you forgot...

A friendly reminder from Brentwood Fire and Rescue:

Eighty-three percent (83%) of all civilian fire-related deaths are a result of home fires.

On average nearly three children a day die in these fires. By providing an early warning and critical extra seconds to escape, smoke alarms can DOUBLE your families’ chances of getting out of a home fire alive – BUT ONLY IF THEY WORK.

 So, when you change your clocks on March 10 (daylight savings time), we hope you make a lifesaving change in your household – changing the batteries in your smoke alarms. This simple habit takes just a moment but is the best defense your family has against the devastating effect of a home fire.

For assistance or more information call 371-0170.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fier Chief's Briefing for February 5 through February 10, 2013

Here is a summary of Brentwood Fire and Rescue’s emergency responses for the period of February 5 through February 10, 2013.

We responded to 36 emergency calls for service.

These calls can be broken down into the following categories:
Hazardous Condition: 1
Good Intent: 3
False Call: 5
Here is an overview of significant events from this period’s activites:

Sunday, February 10 at approximately 10:47 am:

E2 was dispatched on a report of injuries from a fall on a bike path.  Due to the location of the PT, neither the fire truck nor the ambulance was able to drive directly to them, necessitating hiking the equipment to the scene. Upon arrival at the PT crew members began a rapid trauma assessment which revealed an obvious deformity to the PT’s elbow and tenderness in the PT’s ankle. Crew members quickly splinted the injuries and prepared the PT for transport. PD was able to gain access to the area with a patrol car which was used to remove the PT to the awaiting ambulance for non-emergency transport to an area hospital. 
Sunday, February 10 at approximately 12:42 pm:
All BFR units were dispatched on a report of a possible structure fire. E4 arrived first on scene and established incident command. The occupants were out of the home and reported that food inside their oven was burning but that the oven had been turned off. E4 made entry into the home and found a pan of burning oil. All other responding units were cancelled. The burning oil was extinguished and removed from the structure. There was significant smoke, so crew members set up the positive pressure fan to ventilate the structure. With no further hazards found command was terminated and all companies returned to their previous assignments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fire Chief's Briefing for January 30 through February 4, 2013

Here is a summary of Brentwood Fire and Rescue’s emergency responses for the period of January 30 through February 4, 2013.

We responded to 52 emergency calls for service.

These calls can be broken down into the following categories:

EMS/Rescue: 33

Hazardous Condition: 1

Service Call: 4

Good Intent: 6

False Call: 8

Here is an overview of significant events from this period’s activities:

Wednesday, January 30 at approximately 9:59 pm:

All BFR units were dispatched on a reported structure fire. The occupants of the home called 911 and stated that smoke and flames were coming from their chimney into the residence. E4 arrived first on scene and reported nothing visible from the outside. While preparing to enter the home a light haze was detected. The homeowner told E4 that it appeared that the flames had gone out and that the problem may be that the damper on the chimney had closed, which caused the home to fill with smoke. E4’s crew verified that there were no hazards before cancelling all other responding units with the exception of E2 and R1, which had arrived on scene. The flue was opened and the logs were removed from the fireplace to be extinguished. Once the smoke was ventilated from the home and it was verified with the TIC that there was no fire, all units cleared the scene and returned to quarters.

Saturday, February 2:
BFR units responded to numerous weather related incidents including several minor traffic accidents in which PT injuries were non-critical. The heavy snow greatly increased response times and necessitated placing Brush 1 into service as a first line response vehicle. Brush 1 is stationed at Fire Station 4, and due to the hills in the area its four wheel drive capability and all-terrain tires were needed. The sudden and heavy snowfall also necessitated the closing of several roads, including I-65 both North and South bound until they could be cleared and salted.  A total of 27 accidents were reported by noon on Saturday.

Saturday, February 2 at approximately 8:38 am:

B1 was dispatched on a report of injuries from a sledding accident. Upon arrival 1 PT was found lying in a ditch at the bottom of a hill with obvious lower leg deformity. Crew members performed a rapid trauma assessment but determined there were no other injuries. The PT was immobilized until EMS arrived on scene and care was transferred. B1 assisted EMS with stabilizing the injury via vacuum splint prior to loading into the awaiting ambulance for transport to an area hospital.

Saturday, February 2 at approximately 9:24 am:

E1 was dispatched to I-65 southbound for a report of leaking diesel fuel tank on a semi. Approximately one mile from the scene the interstate became impassible due to icy conditions and traffic congestion.  E1 met up with a TDOT salt truck that was also unable to proceed further to clear the roadway. Crew members from E1 exited the rig and proceeded to direct vehicles to move safely out of the way so the two trucks could continue their responses. Crew members eventually arrived on scene and made contact with the driver of the semi. The leak was contained and oil-dry was put down to prevent the fuel from leaking into the waterway. TDOT continued salting the roadway and traffic was soon able to continue south. With no further hazards, E1 cleared the scene.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Station Life: Station 1 Fire Pole

This week’s Station Life photos are all about the fire pole at Station 1.

Fire Station 1 is the only station in the City of Brentwood to have a “fire pole”. The history of fire poles dates back to the days when fire apparatus were pulled by horses. The horses were well trained members of the department who were known to move into position to be harnessed when they heard the fire bells ring. Unfortunately, the horses tended to feel a little too much like members of the crew and would try to follow the firefighters to their living quarters on the second floor by climbing the stairs after a call! Initially this problem was solved by installing circular stairs, but while these kept the horses in the bay they also slowed the firefighter’s responses. Some fire stations installed chutes or slides to allow the firefighters to get downstairs quickly, but the fire pole eventually won out as the favored method.

The fire pole at Station 1 has a gate around it to help keep visiting children or weary firefighters from taking an unplanned detour back to the ground floor. Our pole is also equipped with flaps that open and close automatically when a firefighter’s weight is added. These flaps help keep the living quarters separate from the apparatus bay without sacrificing any speed when responding. 


“Sliding the pole” is a learned skill and can be dangerous if not done properly.  Firefighters use their feet and legs to control their speed while descending the pole and their hands are merely guides.  A rubber mat at the bottom helps cushion the impact if an over exuberant rookie tries to beat everyone to the truck. 

The days of horses in the station are long gone, and the tradition of including a fire pole in the station is slowly fading away as well. More and more fire stations are being built as single story buildings, so the need to quickly change levels is disappearing. Fortunately, the tradition of fire poles lives on at Brentwood Fire Station 1.