Firefighter

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Firefighter
US Navy 080730-N-5277R-003 A Commander, Naval Forces Japan firefighter douses a fire on a dummy aircraft during the annual off-station mishap drill at Naval Support Facility Kamiseya.jpg
A Naval Forces Japan firefighter douses a fire during a training drill in July 2008. He is equipped with a fire hose with fog nozzle, breathing apparatus, helmet and full structural firefighting kit.
Occupation
Activity sectors
Rescue, fire protection, civil service, public service, public safety,

A firefighter (also fireman and firewoman) is a rescuer extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property, or the environment.

The complexity of modern industrialized life with a greater 150 prominence of hazards has created an increase in the skills needed in firefighting technology and a broadening of the firefighter's remit. The fire service, also known in some countries as the fire brigade or fire department, is one of the three main emergency services. Firefighting and firefighters have become ubiquitous around the world, from wildlands to urban areas, and aboard ships.

Goals of firefighting[edit]

Firefighters and fire apparatus at the scene of a factory fire in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The goals of firefighting are (in order of priority):

  1. Save life
  2. Save property
  3. Save the environment

As such, the skills required for safe operations are regularly practiced during training evaluations throughout a firefighter's career. In the United States, the preeminent fire training and standards organization is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Often initial firefighting skills are taught during a local, regional, or state approved fire academy.[1] Depending on the requirements of a department, additional skills and certifications such as technical rescue and pre-hospital medicine may also be taught at this time.

Firefighters work closely with other emergency response agencies, most particularly the police and emergency medical service, and their role may overlap with both. Fire investigators or fire marshals usually work for a fire department to investigate the cause of a fire. If the fire was caused by arson or negligence, this means that their work will overlap with law enforcement. In fact, some fire marshals in the United States have powers of arrest. Firefighters also frequently provide some degree of emergency medical service, in addition to working with full-time paramedics.

The basic tasks of firefighters include: firefighting, fire prevention, rescue, basic first aid and investigations. Firefighting is further broken down into skills which include size-up, extinguishing, ventilation, salvage and overhaul. Wildland firefighting includes size-up, containment, extinguishment, and mop up. Search and Rescue, which has already been mentioned, is performed early in any fire scenario and many times is in unison with extinguishing and ventilation.

Firefighting[edit]

Firefighters had to focus their efforts on saving the adjacent church instead of this burning building, an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada
Firefighter carrying out a ladder slide

A fire burns due to the presence of three elements, often referred to as being the fire triangle. These are: fuel, oxygen and heat. The aim of firefighting is to deprive the fire of at least one of these elements. Sometimes this is referred to as a fire tetrahedron if a fourth element is added: a chemical chain reaction that can sustain or re-kindle a fire. Firefighters are equipped with a wide variety of equipment to accomplish this task. Some of their tools include ladder trucks, pumper trucks, tanker trucks, fire hose, and fire extinguishers. Very frequent training and refresher training is required.

While sometimes fires can be limited to small areas of a structure, wider collateral damage due to smoke, water, and burning embers is common. Utility shutoff (such as gas and electricity) is typically an early priority of arriving fire crews. Furthermore, fire prevention can take on a special meaning for property where hazardous materials are being used or stored.

Structure fires may be attacked, generally, either by "interior" or "exterior" resources, or both. Interior crews, using the "two in, two out" rule, may advance hose lines inside the building, find the fire and cool it with water. Exterior crews may direct water into windows or other openings, or against other nearby fuels exposed to the initial fire. Hose streams directed into the interior through exterior wall aperturtes may conflict with and jeopardize interior fire attack crews. A proper command structure will plan and coordinate the various teams and equipment to safely execute each tactic.

See also Fire suppression for other techniques.

Buildings that are made of flammable materials such as wood are different from so called "fire-resistant" buildings such as concrete high-rises. Generally, a "fire-resistant" building is designed to limit fire to a small area or floor. Other floors can be safe simply by preventing smoke inhalation and damage. All buildings suspected of being on fire must be evacuated, regardless of fire rating.

Some fire fighting tactics may appear to be destructive, but often serve specific needs. For example, during "ventilation" firefighters are often forced to open holes in the roof or floors of a structure (called "vertical ventilation") or open windows or walls (called "horizontal ventilation") to remove smoke and heated gases from the interior of the structure. Such ventilation methods are also used to improve interior visibility facilitating locating victims more quickly. This also helps to preserve the life of trapped or unconscious individuals as it vents the poisonous gases from inside of the structure. Vertical ventilation is absolutely vital to firefighter safety in the event of a flashover or backdraft scenario. Releasing the flammable gasses through the roof often eliminates the possibility of a backdraft and by the removal of heat the possibility of a flashover is reduced significantly. Flashovers, due to their intense heat (900–1200° Fahrenheit) and explosive temperaments are almost always fatal to firefighter personnel. Precautionary methods, such as smashing a window, often reveal backdraft situations before the firefighter enters the structure and is met with the circumstance head-on. Firefighter safety is the number one priority.

Whenever possible, movable property is moved into the middle of a room and covered with a heavy cloth tarp (a "salvage cover"). Other steps may be taken to divert or remove fire flow runoff (thus salvaging property by avoiding unnecessary damage), retrieving/protecting valuables found during suppression or overhaul, and boarding windows, roofs.

Fire prevention[edit]

Firefighters frequently give fire prevention talks at schools and community events

Fire departments frequently provide advice to the public on how to prevent fires. Many will directly inspect buildings to ensure they are up to the current building fire codes, which are enforced so that a building can sufficiently resist fire spread, potential hazards are located, and to ensure that occupants can be safely evacuated, commensurate with the risks involved.

Fire suppression systems have a proven record for controlling and extinguishing unwanted fires. Many fire officials recommend that every building, including residences, have fire sprinkler systems. 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.

Other methods of fire prevention are by directing efforts to reduce known hazardous conditions or by preventing dangerous acts before tragedy strikes. This is normally accomplished in many innovative ways such as conducting presentations, distributing safety brochures, providing news articles, writing public safety announcements (PSA) or establishing meaningful displays in well-visited areas. Ensuring that each household has working smoke alarms, is educated in the proper techniques of fire safety, has an evacuation route and rendezvous point is of top priority in public education for most fire prevention teams in almost all fire department localities.

Rescue[edit]

The emergencies firefighters respond to are rarely limited to fires. Firefighters rescue people (and animals) from dangerous situations such as transport accidents, structural collapses, floods, terrorist incidents, spillages of dangerous substances and many others.[2] Many fire departments, including most in the United Kingdom, refer to themselves as a fire and rescue service for this reason. As building fires have been in decline for many years in developed countries such as the United States, rescues other than fires make up an increasing proportion of their firefighters' work.[3]

HAZMAT[edit]

Decontamination after a chemical spill

Firefighters in the United States are frequently the first responders to hazmat incidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard 1910.120[4] defines four standards of training first responder awareness level, first responder operations level, hazardous materials technician, and Hazardous materials specialist. EMS-based paramedics are typically trained to the awareness level, whereas career and volunteer firefighters are often trained to the operations level or better. Other nations have trained only elite firefighters and rescuers to do hazmat so that funding and equipment could go to fewer stations. This gives departments elite hazmat personnel and high-grade equipment for an incident. Departments place these companies in stations where they can be very mobile.

Occupational health and safety[edit]

Direct risks[edit]

Fires[edit]

Firefighters wearing PPE tackle an aircraft fire during a drill at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas

To allow protection from the inherent risks of fighting fires, firefighters wear and carry protective and self-rescue equipment at all times. A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) delivers air to the firefighter through a full face mask and is worn to protect against smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, and super heated gases. A special device called a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) is commonly worn independently or as a part of the SCBA to alert others when a firefighter stops moving for a specified period of time or manually operates the device. The PASS device sounds an alarm that can assist another firefighter (firefighter assist and search team (FAST), or rapid intervention team (RIT), in locating the firefighter in distress.

Firefighters often carry personal self-rescue ropes. The ropes are generally 30 feet long and can provide a firefighter (that has enough time to deploy the rope) a partially controlled exit out of an elevated window. Lack of a personal rescue rope is cited in the deaths of two New York City Firefighters, Lt. John Bellew and Lt. Curtis Meyran, who died after they jumped from the fourth floor of a burning apartment building in the Bronx. Of the four firefighters who jumped and survived, only one of them had a self-rescue rope. Since the incident, the Fire Department of New York City has issued self-rescue ropes to their firefighters.

Heat injury is a major issue for firefighters as they wear insulated clothing and cannot shed the heat generated from physical exertion. Early detection of heat issues is critical to stop dehydration and heat stress becoming fatal. Early onset of heat stress affects cognitive function which combined with operating in dangerous environment makes heat stress and dehydration a critical issue to monitor. Firefighter physiological status monitoring is showing promise in alerting EMS and commanders to the status of their people on the fire ground. Devices such as PASS device alert 10–20 seconds after a firefighter has stopped moving in a structure. Physiological status monitors measure a firefighter's vital sign status, fatigue and exertion levels and transmit this information over their voice radio. This technology allows a degree of early warning to physiological stress. These devices[5] are similar to technology developed for Future Force Warrior and give a measure of exertion and fatigue. They also tell the people outside a building when they have stopped moving or fallen. This allows a supervisor to call in additional engines before the crew get exhausted and also gives an early warning to firefighters before they run out of air, as they may not be able to make voice calls over their radio. Current OSHA tables exist for heat injury and the allowable amount of work in a given environment based on temperature, humidity and solar loading.[6]

Structural collapses[edit]

Another leading cause of death during firefighting is structural collapse of a burning building (e.g. a wall, floor, ceiling, roof, or truss system). Structural collapse, which often occurs without warning, may crush or trap firefighters inside the structure. To avoid loss of life, all on-duty firefighters should maintain two-way communication with the incident commander and be equipped with a personal alert safety system device on all fire scenes and maintain radio communication on all incidents(PASS).[7][8] Francis Brannigan was the founder and greatest contributor to this element of firefighter safety.

Vehicle accidents[edit]

In the United States, 25% of fatalities of firefighters are caused by vehicle accidents while responding to or returning from an incident. Many firefighters are also injured or killed by vehicles while working at an incident (Paulison 2005). Recently (November 24, 2008) a new measure was established by many departments that requires firefighters to wear a bright yellow reflective vest over their turnout coats while working on the scene of vehicle accidents. The advent of this measure was implemented so firefighters are more visible to the other drivers on the road.[9] In addition to the direct dangers of firefighting, cardiovascular diseases account for approximately 45% of on duty firefighter deaths.[10]

Violence[edit]

Firefighters have sometimes been assaulted by members of the public while responding to calls. These kinds of attacks can cause firefighters to fear for their safety and may cause them to not have full focus on the situation which could result in injury to their selves or the patient. Firefighter unions have begun to tell firefighters that if they fear for their safety they can leave the scene.[11]

Long-term risks[edit]

Cardiovascular disease[edit]

Firefighting has long been associated with poor cardiovascular outcomes. In the United States, the most common cause of on-duty fatalities for firefighters is sudden cardiac death. In addition to personal factors that may predispose an individual to coronary artery disease or other cardiovascular diseases, occupational exposures can significantly increase a firefighter's risk. Historically, the fire service blamed poor firefighter physical condition for being the primary cause of cardiovascular related deaths. However, over the last 20 years, studies and research has indicated the toxic gasses put fire service personnel at significantly higher risk for cardiovascular related conditions and death. For instance, carbon monoxide, present in nearly all fire environments, and hydrogen cyanide, formed during the combustion of paper, cotton, plastics, and other substances containing carbon and nitrogen. The substances inside of materials change during combustion their bi-products interfere with the transport of oxygen in the body. Hypoxia can then lead to heart injury. In addition, chronic exposure to particulate matter in smoke is associated with atherosclerosis. Noise exposures may contribute to hypertension and possibly ischemic heart disease. Other factors associated with firefighting, such as stress, heat stress, and heavy physical exertion, also increase the risk of cardiovascular events.[12]

During fire suppression actives a firefighter can reach peak or near peak heart rates which can act as a trigger for a cardiac event. For example, tachycardia can cause a plaque build up to break loose and lodge itself is a small part of the heart causing myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. This along with unhealthy habits and lack of exercise can be very hazardous to firefighter health.[13]

Cancer[edit]

A 2014 retrospective longitudinal study showed that firefighters are at higher risk for certain types of cancer. Firefighters had mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure, at twice the rate of the non-firefighting working population. Younger firefighters (under age 65) also developed bladder cancer and prostate cancer at higher rates than the general population. The risk of bladder cancer may be present in female firefighters, but research is inconclusive as of 2014.[14][15] Preliminary research from 2015 on a large cohort of US firefighters showed a direct relationship between the number of hours spent fighting fires and lung cancer and leukemia mortality in firefighters. This link is a topic of continuing research in the medical community, as is cancer mortality in general among firefighters.[16]

Firefighters are exposed to a variety of carcinogens at fires, including both carcinogenic chemicals and radiation (alpha radiation, beta radiation, and gamma radiation).[17]

Carcinogens present at fires[17]
Carcinogen Group (IARC) Cancer site (if known)
Acetaldehyde 2B n/a
Arsenic 1 angiosarcoma (liver), lung, skin
Asbestos 1 mesothelioma and other lung cancers, larynx, gastrointestinal
Benz(a)anthracene 2B n/a
Benzene 1 leukemia
Benzo(b)fluoranthene 2B n/a
Benzo(k)fluoranthene 2B n/a
Benzofuran 2B n/a
Benzo(a)pyrene 1 bladder, lung, skin
1,3-Butadiene 1 lymphohematopoietic
Cadmium 1 lung
Carbon black 2B n/a
Chrysene 2B n/a
Dibenz(a,h)anthracene 2A n/a
Dichloromethane 2B n/a
Ethylbenzene 2B n/a
Formaldehyde 1 nasopharynx
Furan 2B n/a
Indeno-1,2,3-(cd)pyrene 2B n/a
Isoprene 2B n/a
Lead 3/2A n/a
Naphthalene 2B n/a
2-Nitroanisole 2B n/a
Polychlorophenols 2B n/a
Polychlorinated biphenyls 2A n/a
Crystalline silica 1 lung
Styrene 2B n/a
Sulfuric acid 1 n/a
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin 1 lung, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sarcomas
Tetrachloroethylene 2A cervix, esophagus, non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Toluene diisocyanate 2B n/a
Trichloroethylene 2A biliary tract, liver, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney (renal cell)
Trichloromethane 2B n/a
Triphenylene 3 n/a

Mental stress[edit]

As with other emergency workers, firefighters may witness traumatic scenes during their careers. They are thus more vulnerable than most people to certain mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.[18]

Occupational hearing loss[edit]

Another long-term risk factor from firefighting is exposure to high levels of sound, which can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus.[19] [20] NIHL is caused by exposure to sound levels at or above 85dBA according to NIOSH and at or above 90dBA according to OSHA.[20] dBA represents A-weighted decibels. dBA is used for measuring sound levels relating to occupational sound exposure since it attempts to mimic the sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies of sound.[20] OSHA uses a 5-dBA exchange rate, which means that for every 5dBA increase in sound from 90dBA, the acceptable exposure time before a risk of permanent hearing loss occurs decreases by half (starting with 8 hours acceptable exposure time at 90dBA)[20][21]. NIOSH uses a 3-dBA exchange rate starting at 8 hours acceptable exposure time at 85dBA. [20][22]

The time of exposure required to potentially cause damage depends on the level of sound exposed to.[22] The most common causes of excessive sound exposure are sirens, transportation to and from fires, fire alarms, and work tools.[19] Traveling in an emergency vehicle has shown to expose a person to between 103 and 114dBA of sound. According to OSHA, exposure at this level is acceptable for between 17 and 78 minutes[21] and according to NIOSH is acceptable for between 35 seconds and 7.5 minutes [22] over a 24-hour day before permanent hearing loss can occur. This time period considers that no other high level sound exposure occurs in that 24-hour time frame.[22] Sirens often output about 120 dBA, which according to OSHA, 7.5 minutes of exposure is needed[21] and according to NIOSH, 9 seconds of exposure is needed[22] in a 24-hour time period before permanent hearing loss can occur. In addition to high sound levels, another risk factor for hearing disorders is the co-exposure to chemicals that are ototoxic.[23]

The average day of work for a firefighter can often be under the sound exposure limit for both OSHA and NIOSH.[20] While the average day of sound exposure as a firefighter is often under the limit, firefighters can be exposed to impulse noise, which has a very low acceptable time exposure before permanent hearing damage can occur due to the high intensity and short duration.[19]

There are also high rates of hearing loss, often NIHL, in firefighters, which increases with age and number of years working as a firefighter.[19] [24] Hearing loss prevention programs have been implemented in multiple stations and have shown to help lower the rate of firefighters with NIHL[20]. Other attempts have been made to lower sound exposures for firefighters, such as enclosing the cabs of the firetrucks to lower the siren exposure while driving.[20] NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is responsible for occupational health programs and standards in firefighters which discusses what hearing sensitivity is required to work as a firefighter, but also enforces baseline (initial) and annual hearing tests (based on OSHA hearing maintenance regulations).[19] While NIHL can be a risk that occurs from working as a firefighter, NIHL can also be a safety concern for communicating while doing the job as communicating with coworkers and victims is essential for safety.[19] Hearing protection devices have been used by firefighters in the United States.[20] Earmuffs are the most commonly used hearing protection device (HPD) as they are the most easy to put on correctly in a quick manner.[20] Multiple fire departments have used HPDs that have communication devices built in, allowing firefighters to speak with each other at safe, but audible sound levels, while lowering the hazardous sound levels around them.[20]

Firefighting around the world[edit]

The Paris Fire Brigade is a French Army unit which serves as the fire service for Paris and certain sites of national strategic importance.
Firefighters tackling a blaze in Montreal, Canada

In Germany, even the smallest villages are required to have a volunteer fire department, called the "Freiwillige Feuerwehr", by law. Even the biggest German city, Berlin, with more than 3.6 million inhabitants, has volunteer firefighters in addition to a regular paid fire service. However, due to urbanization and a shrinking population, very small villages may be exempt from this requirement if the area can be covered by the fire department from a neighboring town. If this is not the case, a compulsory fire department is established by conscripting every able-bodied inhabitant between 18 and 63 years of age. A career fire service is mandatory for towns with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Consequently, only 103 German cities have a career fire service, called the "Berufsfeuerwehr", but in all of these cities a volunteer fire service exists too. In cities with a career fire service, volunteer fire brigades support the career fire service in the case of several emergencies at once, bigger fires, accidents and disasters. In a few of the bigger towns (usually more than 35,000 inhabitants) a large volunteer fire department could consist of a core of career firefighters supported by true volunteer firefighters. However, the official title of those departments is nevertheless "volunteer fire service".

The structure in Austria is similar to Germany. There are just six career fire services in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Linz. As of 2007, some 4,527 volunteer fire departments, the back-bone of the Austrian fire service, could rely on about 320,000 men and women voluntary firefighters as active members.[25] Fire departments exist in even the smallest villages, where they contribute to community life, usually by organizing fairs and other fund-raising activities.

In Venezuela, there are, beside the types mentioned above, university firefighters. They attend any emergency inside the campus and the zones around; however, their most important job is to develop new technologies in this area, thanks to the high level of education of its members: in the Simón Bolívar University Volunteer Fire Department, around 80% of its members have a university degree or are in the process of obtaining one.

In Japan, fire services are organized on a city/town/village basis. There are 894 fire headquarters and 3,598 volunteer fire corps. These have a total of 155,000 active career firefighters and 21,000 vehicles with 4,800 fire houses;[citation needed] 920,000 volunteer firefighters share an additional 51,000 trucks.

In Romania, the Romanian General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations is responsible for fire fighting and civil defense.

In Singapore, the Singapore Civil Defence Force is responsible for fire fighting and emergency response. In addition to career firefighters, there are conscripted firefighters, generally young adults between the ages of 18-25, that join under the national service scheme (see Conscription in Singapore).

In India municipalities are required by law to have a fire brigade and participate in a regional fire service. Each city has its own fire brigade. The main functions of firefighting services in India are provision of fire protection and of services during emergencies such as building collapses, drowning cases, gas leakage, oil spillage, road and rail accidents, bird and animal rescues, fallen trees, appropriate action during natural calamities, and so on. Industrial corporations also have their own firefighting service. Each airport and seaport has its own firefighting units.

Communication and command structure[edit]

New South Wales Fire Brigade station officer (red helmet) and firefighters (yellow helmets)

The expedient and accurate handling of fire alarms or calls are significant factors in the successful outcome of any incident. Fire department communications play a critical role in that successful outcome. Fire department communications include the methods by which the public can notify the communications center of an emergency, the methods by which the center can notify the proper fire fighting forces, and the methods by which information is exchanged at the scene. One method is to use a megaphone to communicate.

A telecommunicator (often referred to as a dispatcher)[citation needed] has a role different but just as important as other emergency personnel. The telecommunicator must process calls from unknown and unseen individuals, usually calling under stressful conditions. He/she must be able to obtain complete, reliable information from the caller and prioritize requests for assistance. It is the dispatcher's responsibility to bring order to chaos.

While some fire departments are large enough to utilize their own telecommunication dispatcher, most rural and small areas rely on a central dispatcher to provide handling of fire, rescue and police services.

Firefighters are trained to use communications equipment to receive alarms, give and receive commands, request assistance, and report on conditions. Since firefighters from different agencies routinely provide mutual aid to each other, and routinely operate at incidents where other emergency services are present, it is essential to have structures in place to establish a unified chain of command, and share information between agencies. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has established a National Incident Management System.[26] One component of this system is the Incident Command System.

All radio communication in the United States is under authorization from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); as such, fire departments that operate radio equipment must have radio licenses from the FCC.

Ten codes were popular in the early days of radio equipment because of poor transmission and reception. Advances in modern radio technology have reduced the need for ten-codes and many departments have converted to simple English (clear text).

Ranks[edit]

Many firefighters are sworn officers with command structures similar to the military and police. They do not have general police powers (some firefighters in the United States have limited police powers, like fire police departments, while certain fire marshals have full police powers, i.e. the ability to make warantless arrests, and authority to carry a firearm on and off-duty), but have specific powers of enforcement and control in fire and emergency situations.

Canada[edit]

Ranks amongst Canadian firefighters vary across the country and ranking appears mostly with larger departments:

Toronto

Rank Insignia
Probationary Firefighter no rank
Second Class Firefighter no rank
First Class Firefighter no rank
Captain 2 silver epaulette stripes
District Chief 2 gold stripes
Platoon Chief 3 gold stripes
Division Commander 3 thick and 1 thin gold stripes
Deputy Fire Chief 4 gold stripes
Fire Chief 5 gold stripes

Montreal

A Montreal Fire Operations Chief talking to the media at the scene of a crane collapse.
Rank Insignia
Firefighter/Firefighter Instructor no rank
Interim Lieutenant 1 white stripes
Lieutenant/Lieutenant Instructor 2 white stripes
Captain 3 white stripes
Operations Chief 1 thick yellow stripes
Division Chief 1 thick and 1 thin yellow stripes
Assistant Chief 1 thick and 2 thin yellow stripes
Deputy Chief 1 thick and 3 thin yellow stripes
Fire Chief 1 thick and 4 thin yellow stripes plus star

Chile[edit]

Ranks are divided between Company Officers and Fire Department Officers, which can be subdivided between Active Officers (Field Officers) and Administrative Officers each. The active officers are the captain, and two or three lieutenants, these three active officers are distinguished by their red helmets.

Commonwealth[edit]

Most fire brigades in Commonwealth countries (except Canada) have a more "civilianised" nomenclature, structured in a traditional manner. For example, the common structure in United Kingdom brigades is:

Rank Collar/epaulette markings Helmet colour/pattern Form of address
Firefighter Trainee Red Yellow helmet, often with the Trainee's surname written across to allow trainers to identify them None
Firefighter Development None Yellow helmet with a red diamond indicating the Firefighter is capable of responding to fire calls, but is in the final stage of his/her training None
Firefighter None Yellow helmet with no marking indicates a "competent" (fully trained) firefighter. None
Crew Manager Two chrome bars on blue Yellow helmet with two 12.5mm horizontal black stripes Crew
Watch Manager Two impellers on blue White helmet with one 12.5mm horizontal black stripe Watch
Station Manager Three impellers on blue White helmet with one 19mm horizontal black stripe Sir/Ma'am
Group Manager One impeller inside wreath on blue White helmet with one 12.5mm and one 19mm horizontal black stripes Sir/Ma'am
Area Manager One chrome bar and one impeller inside wreath on blue White helmet with two 19mm horizontal black stripes Sir/Ma'am
Deputy Chief Fire Officer One chrome bar, one impeller and one large impeller inside wreath on blue White helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripe Sir/Ma'am
Chief Fire Officer Two impellers and one large impeller inside wreath on blue White helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripe Sir/Ma'am

France[edit]

French civilian fire services, which historically are derived from French army sapper units, use standard French Army ranks. The highest rank in many departments is full colonel. Only the NCO rank of major is used in both the Paris Fire Brigade and the Marseille Naval Fire Battalion, since 2013 it has been abolished in the other fire departments.

Germany[edit]

In Germany every federal state has its own civil protection laws thus they have different rank systems. Additionally there is a difference between a rank and an official position. This is founded on the military traditions of the fire departments. Every firefighter can hold a high rank without having an official position. A firefighter can be promoted by years of service, training skills and qualifications. Official positions are partly elected or given by capabilities. These conditions allow that older ordinary firefighters have higher ranks than their leaders. But through this ranks are no authorities given (Brevet).

Italy[edit]

The Vigili del Fuoco, (literally the word "Vigili" comes from the latin word "Vigiles", which means "who is part of certain guards") have the official name of Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco (CNVVF, National Firefighters Corps).

The CNVVF is the Italian institutional agency for fire and rescue service. It is part of the Ministry of Interior's Department of Firefighters, Public Rescue and Public Protection. The CNVVF task is to provide safety for people, animals and property, and control the compliance of buildings and industries to fire safety rules. The Ministry of the Interior, through the CNVVF, adopts fire safety rules with ministerial decrees or other lower rank documents. The CNVVF also ensures public rescue in emergencies that involves the use of chemical weapons, bacteriological, radiological and materials. Since 2012 the Corps uses its own rank titles (dating from 2007) with matching military styled insignia in honor of its origins.

In 2016 the CNVVF has been committed in forest firefighting activities together with the regional forest agencies, following the suppression of the National Forest Guards, which were merged into the Carabinieri (firefighters were integrated into the CNVVF). .

Italian HAZMAT unit parading in Rome.
Directors general
Dirigente generale capo del corpo
Dirigente generale
Dirigente superiore
Primo dirigente
Directors
Direttore vice dirigente
Direttore
Vice direttore
Substitute Fire Directors
Sostituto direttore antincendi capo
Sostituto direttore antincendi
Fire inspectors
Ispettore antincendi esperto
Ispettore antincendi
Vice ispettore antincendi
Non-commissioned officers
Capo reparto esperto
Capo reparto
Capo squadra esperto
Capo squadra
Enlisted firefighters
Vigile coordinatore
Vigile esperto
Vigile qualificato
Vigile del fuoco
Volunteer firefighters
Funzionario tecnico antincendi
Capo reparto volontario
Capo squadra volontario
Vigile volontario

Iran[edit]

In Iran, every province has its own firefighting department, but ranks are the same in the whole country, and are as follows:

Rank Persian Collar/epaulette markings Collar/epaulette markings (in Persian)
Volunteer Firefighter I آتش نشان داوطلب One yellow bar یک خط زرد
Volunteer Firefighter II آتش نشان داوطلب دوم Two yellow bars دو خط زرد
Volunteer Firefighter III آتش نشان داوطلب سوم Three yellow bars سه خط زرد
Firefighter I آتش نشان One silver bar یک خط نقره ای
Firefighter II آتش نشان دوم Two silver bars دو خط نقره ای
Firefighter III آتش نشان سوم Three silver bars سه خط نقره ای
Head Firefighter I سرآتش نشان One flame and one gold bar یک شعله و یک خط طلایی
Head Firefighter II سرآتش نشان دوم One flame and Two gold bars یک شعله و دو خط طلایی
Head Firefighter III سرآتش نشان سوم One flame and Three gold bars یک شعله و سه خط طلایی
Master Firefighter I سر آتش یار One flame یک شعله
Master Firefighter II آتش یار Two flames دو شعله
Master Firefighter III آتش یار دوم Three flames سه شعله
Master Firefighter IV آتش یار سوم Four flames چهار شعله
Chief Firefighter I آتش پاد One empty gold wreath یک حلقه گل طلایی خالی
Chief Firefighter II آتش پاد دوم One gold wreath with a flame inside یک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش
Chief Firefighter III آتش پاد سوم One gold wreath with a flame inside and a silver bar below them یک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و یک خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter I فرآتش پاد One gold wreath with a flame inside and two silver bars below them یک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و دو خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter II فرآتش پاد دوم One gold wreath with a flame inside and three silver bars below them یک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و سه خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter III فرآتش پاد سوم One gold wreath with a flame inside and four silver bars below them یک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و چهار خط نقره ای زیر آنها

Ireland[edit]

In Ireland, the traditional brigade rank structure is still adopted. Below is the common structure for most brigades, Cork and Dublin Fire Brigade have additional ranks:

Rank Helmet colour/markings
Firefighter Plain Yellow Helmet Leading Firefighter/Driver Mechanic in retained brigades Yellow Helmet with one 12.5mm horizontal black stripe
Sub Officer Yellow Helmet with two 12mm black stripes
Station Officer White helmet with one 19mm horizontal black stripe
Assistant Chief Fire Officer
Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer White helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripe
Chief Fire Officer White helmet with two 38mm horizontal black stripe

Japan[edit]

Japanese Fire Department's rank insignias are place on a small badge and pinned above the right pocket. Rank is told by stripes and Hexagram stars. The design of the insignias came from older Japanese style military insignias. Officers and Team Leaders could wear an arm band on the arm of fire jacket to show status as command leader. Sometimes rank can be shown as different color fire jacket for command staff. The color whites and gray are reserved for EMS. Orange is reserved for rescuer.

Firefighter
One Star with one stripe across
Assistant Fire Sergeant
Two Stars with one stripe across
Fire Sergeant
Three Stars with one stripe across
Fire Lieutenant
One Star with two stripes across
Fire Captain
Two Stars with two stripes across
Battalion Chief
Three Stars with two stripes across
Assistant Chief
One Star with solid background
1st Assistant Chief
Two Stars with solid background
Deputy Chief
Three Stars with solid background
Fire Chief
Four Stars with solid background

Malaysia

# Rank Abbreviation Rank (English) Grade Epaulet
Shoulder board Collar badge
Penguasa Bomba (Fire Superintendent)
1 Ketua Pesuruhjaya Bomba KPjB Chief Fire Commissioner JUSA A
2 Pesuruhjaya Bomba PjB Fire Commissioner JUSA B
3 Timbalan Pesuruhjaya Bomba TPjB Deputy Fire Commissioner JUSA C
4 Penolong Kanan Pesuruhjaya Bomba PKPjB Senior Assistant Fire Commissioner KB 54
5 Penolong Pesuruhjaya Bomba PPjB Assistant Fire Commissioner KB 52
6 Penguasa Kanan Bomba I PgKB I Senior Fire Superintendent I KB 48
7 Penguasa Kanan Bomba II PgKB II Senior Fire Superintendent II KB 44
8 Penguasa Bomba PgB Fire Superintendent KB 41
Penolong Penguasa Bomba (Assistant Fire Superintendent)
9 Timbalan Penguasa Bomba TPgB Deputy Fire Superintendent KB 38
10 Penolong Kanan Penguasa Bomba PKPgB Senior Assistant Fire Superintendent KB 32
11 Penolong Penguasa Bomba PPgB Assistant Fire Superintendent KB 29
Pegawai Bomba (Fire Officer)
12 Pegawai Bomba Tinggi PBT Leading Fire Officer KB 26
13 Pegawai Bomba Kanan I PBK I Senior Fire Officer I KB 24
14 Pegawai Bomba Kanan II PBK II Senior Fire Officer II KB 22
15 Pegawai Bomba PB Fire Officer KB 17 / 19 No Insignia

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, rank is shown on epulattes on firefighters' station uniform, and through colors and stripes on firefighter helmets. As the nation only has a single fire department, the New Zealand Fire Service, ranks are consistent through the country.

Rank Epaulette[27] Helmet[27]
Trainee Firefighter (TFF) plain fluro-green
Firefighter (FF) plain yellow
Qualified Firefighter (QFF) one bar yellow, one red stripe
Senior Firefighter (SFF) two bars yellow, two red stripes
Station Officer (SO) one impeller red, one blue stripe
Senior Station Officer (SSO) two impellers red, two blue stripes
Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) impeller between two ferns below one impeller white, one blue stripe
Chief Fire Officer (CFO) impeller between two ferns below two impellers white, two blue stripes
Assistant Area Commander (AAC) three impellers silver
Area Commander (AC) one impeller below a crown silver, one blue stripe
Assistant National Commander (ANC) three impellers trefoil below a crown silver, two blue stripes
Deputy National Commander (DNC) silver crossed sword and baton below an impeller black
National Commander (NC) silver crossed sword and baton below a crown black

Russian Federation[edit]

A Russian firefighter with a head of duty shift fire station helmet.

In the Russian Federation, the decals are applied symmetrically on both sides of the helmet (front and rear). The location of the decals on the special clothing and SCBA is established for each fire department of the same type within the territorial entity. The following ranks are used by State Fire Service civilian personnel, while military personnel use ranks similar to those of the Police of Russia, due to their pre-2001 history as the fire service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation before all firefighting services were transferred to the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Insignia of a helmet Federal Fire Service of EMERCOM
Rank Helmet colour/markings
Firefighter The all color helmet with the applied number, indicating the fire station
Head of fire brigade The all color helmet with the applied number, indicating the fire station, underlined by line 50 mm wide and 5 mm thick
Head of duty shift fire station The all color helmet with the applied a circle, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Deputy Head of the fire station The all color helmet with the applied a triangle, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Head of the fire station The all color helmet with the applied a square, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Commanding staff of the fire department The all color helmet with the applied a circle, inside which the applied a rhombus

United States of America[edit]

An American firefighter with a lieutenant's helmet.
Typical rank insignia for an American fire department.

In the United States, helmet colors often denote a fire fighter's rank or position. In general, white helmets denote chief officers, while red helmets may denote company officers, but the specific meaning of a helmet's color or style varies from region to region and department to department. The rank of an officer in an American fire department is most commonly denoted by a number of speaking trumpets, a reference to a megaphone like device used in the early days of the fire service, although typically called "bugle" in today's parlance. Ranks proceed from one (lieutenant) to five (fire chief) bugles. Traditional ranks in American Fire Departments that exist but may not always be utilized in all cities or towns include:

Firefighter
no bugles
Engineer/Technician/Sergeant
3 chevrons
Lieutenant
1 bugle
Captain
2 either traditionally side by side
or less usually crossed bugles
Battalion Chief/District Chief
2 either side by side
or more traditionally crossed bugles
Division Chief or Assistant /Deputy Asst.

Chief/Commissioner

3 crossed bugles
Deputy Chief/Commissioner
4 crossed bugles
Chief/Commissioner
5 crossed bugles

The basic American fire department unit is a small unit called a "company" (under a lieutenant or captain depending upon rank structure) which is equivalent to a Commonwealth "watch" (under a sub-officer). An American fire captain is thus often equivalent to a Commonwealth sub-officer, and an American fire lieutenant to a Commonwealth leading firefighter. In many fire departments in the U.S., the rank of captain or lieutenant are both used to denote the most junior fire officer at the company level. There is no state or federal rank structure for firefighters and each municipality or volunteer fire department creates and uses their own unique structure.

Still some other American fire departments such the FDNY use military rank insignia in addition or instead of the traditional bugles. Additionally, officers on truck companies have been known to use rank insignias shaped like axes for Lieutenants (1) and Captains (2).

Firefighter equipment[edit]

A partial list of some equipment typically used by firefighters:

History of fire brigades[edit]

A picture of American firefighters in the 1770s
Vancouver firemen responding to a fire alarm, Vancouver, British Columbia. Photograph taken by W.J. Carpenter in 1910.

Although people have fought fires since there have been valuable things to burn, the first instance of organized professionals combating structural fires occurred in Ancient Egypt. Likewise, fire fighters of the Roman Republic existed solely as privately organized and funded groups that operated more similarly to a business than a public service; however, during the Principate period Augustus revolutionized firefighting by calling for the creation of a fire guard that was trained, paid, and equipped by the state- the first truly public and professional firefighting service. Known as the Vigiles, they were organised into cohorts and also served as a night watch and city police force.

The earliest American fire departments were volunteers, including the volunteer fire company in New Amsterdam, now known as New York.[28] Fire companies were composed of citizens who volunteered their time to help protect the community. As time progressed and new towns popped up throughout the region there was a sharp increase in the number of volunteer departments. The first career fire department was not established in the United States until 1853 in Cincinnati, Ohio (Cincinnati Fire & EMS Department). Many large cities began establishing paid, full-time, staff in order to try facilitate greater fire-related call volume. St. Louis Fire Department followed Cincinnati four years later and became the second established career fire department in the country followed by other large cities like New York (FDNY). City fire departments draw their funding directly from city taxes and share the same budget as other public works like the police department and trash services. Aside from big city fire departments, many populated suburbs and towns have career fire departments. The primary difference between a municipality department and a City department is the funding. Municipal fire departments do not share their budget with any other service and are considered to be private entities within a jurisdiction. This means that they have their own taxes that feed into their budgeting needs. Another main difference is the structure of the department. City fire departments have the mayor at the top of the chain where as municipal departments have elected board officials who help maintain and run the department along with the chief officer staff.

Professional vs. volunteer firefighters[edit]

In a country with a comprehensive fire service, fire departments must be able to send firefighters to emergencies at any hour of day or night, to arrive on the scene within minutes. In urban areas, this means that full-time firefighters usually have shift work, with some providing cover each night. On the other hand, it may not be practical to employ full-time firefighters in villages and isolated small towns, where their services may not be required for days at a time. For this reason, many fire departments have firefighters who spend long periods on call to respond to infrequent emergencies; they may have regular jobs outside of firefighting. Whether they are paid or not varies by country. In the United States and Germany, volunteer fire departments provide most of the cover in rural areas. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, by contrast, actual volunteers are rare. Instead, "retained firefighters" are paid for responding to incidents, along with a small salary for spending long periods of time on call.

Dogs[edit]

An 1879 illustration of firefighters
Firefighter bicycle

In popular literature firefighters are sometimes depicted with Dalmatian dogs. This breed originated in southern Europe and was primarily responsible for herding livestock and running alongside carriages drawn by horses. In the days of horse-drawn fire vehicles, the horses were usually released on arrival at the fire and the Dalmatians would lead the horses through traffic and to a safe place to wait until the fire was out. Dalmatians also filled the role of protecting the horses' feet from other dogs as equipment was being transported to the fire scene.

In reality, most fire dogs were mutts pulled from the street (and thus cheaper to acquire). In addition, Dalmatians have a reputation for skittishness and congenital defects, such as deafness and more violent tendencies due to inbreeding.

Fundraisers[edit]

Funds for fire-fighting equipment may be raised by the firefighters themselves, especially in the case of volunteer organizations. Events such as pancake breakfasts and chili feeds are common in the US. Social events are also used to raise money, including dances, community fairs and car washes.

Notable firefighters[edit]

  • James Braidwood (firefighter) (1800–1861), founder of the municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh, 1824
  • John Decker (1823–1892), chief of the New York City department during the 1863 draft riots
  • Raúl Gándara-Cartagena (1895–1989), first and longest-serving Puerto Rico commonwealth fire chief
  • James J. Kenney (1869–1918), Berkeley, California, politician, the city's first fire chief
  • Louis R. Nowell (1915–2009), Los Angeles, California, City Council member, a firefighter for 23 years
  • Chip Prather (born 1953), second chief of the Orange County, California, Fire Authority
  • Vladimir Pravik (1962-1986), Soviet firefighter who worked in the Chernobyl disaster, died on 11 May from acute radiation sickness
  • Joseph Pfeifer, New York City, New York, Chief of counterterrorism and emergency preparedness, was the first to make an official report of 9/11 and headed the operations at WTC

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ "Hazardous waste operations and emergency response. - 1910.120". Osha.gov. Retrieved 2012-12-10. 
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  7. ^ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters due to Structural Collapse. August 1999.
  8. ^ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Alert: Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Fire Fighters Due to Truss System Failures. May 2005.
  9. ^ Federal Highway Administration DOT 23CFR634 Worker Visibility
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  12. ^ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Alert: Preventing Fire Fighter Fatalities Due to Heart Attacks and Other Sudden Cardiovascular Events. July 2007.
  13. ^ [University of Illinois] https://www.fsi.illinois.edu/documents[permanent dead link] /research/CardioChemRisksModernFF_InterimReport2016.pdf
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  21. ^ a b c "Noise exposure computation - 1910.95 App A | Occupational Safety and Health Administration". www.osha.gov. 
  22. ^ a b c d e "NIOSH/Criteria for a Recommended Standard--Occupational Noise Exposure, 1998". www.nonoise.org. 
  23. ^ Johnson, Ann-Christin and Morata, Thais (2010). "Occupational exposure to chemicals and hearing impairment. The Nordic Expert Group for Criteria Documentation of Health Risks from Chemicals. 44 (4): 177" (PDF). Arbete och Hälsa. 44: 177. 
  24. ^ Taxini, Carla; Guida, Heraldo (6 January 2014). "Firefighters' noise exposure: A literature review". International Archives of Otorhinolaryngology. 17 (01): 080–084. doi:10.7162/S1809-97772013000100014. 
  25. ^ Österreichischer Bundesfeuerwehrverband: Statistik des ÖBFV Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine.
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  28. ^ Essentials of Firefighting