Talk:Multiple-alarm fire

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I just removed the section titled "Levels" (diff) originally authored by User: Although well intentioned, a list of dispatches coincident with first, second, and elevated alarms simply isn't convenient for this article because the dispatch is different from one jurisdiction to the next. To maintain NPOV, such a section can have no place in this article. I believe links to descriptions of jurisdictional response patterns would still be acceptable in the "External links" section, provided the information has been released by the department and is available to the public. If possible, we should try to avoid making a list. --Shaggorama (talk) 15:17, 11 August 2008 (UTC)


I wonder how many alarms 9/11 was (at the WTC, anyway). I recall reading stuff such as a "second fifth alarm" for that dispatch, and I recall being confused by that stuff. (talk) 03:17, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Per this doc, the first crash was witnessed by a Battalion Chief who ordered a 2nd alarm transmitted. It appears that a 5th alarm was transmitted soon after. When the 2nd plane hit, another 5th alarm was ordered. At some point a third 5th was transmitted. Understand that if a Chief immediately calls for a 2nd alarm, the unit assignment includes the 1st alarm for that box location, too. If the doc is accurate and a 5th alarm was transmitted right away (not a bad idea given what was happening), then that box would get the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th alarm units. Plus, since there are "move-ups" to ensure coverage of empty districts for each alarm, there are also companies moving for that. Needless to say, the chaos in the city that day was only barely contained. I feel bad for cities that don't pre-determine their response patterns - that leads to things like "send me everything you have" with the dispatcher scrambling to do that. With predetermined alarm levels, it's much simpler for the incident commander. --plaws (talk) 19:26, 21 December 2014 (UTC)


Wouldn't that be called merely "a fire", as the epithet is only used when there are more alarms than one? Maikel (talk) 11:51, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Size matters![edit]

Quote: The number of alarms doesn't necessarily indicate the size or the severity of the actual blaze so much as the size of the incident and how long and hard the fire department had to work to control it.

I contend that e. g. "five-alarm fire" does indicate the size or severity of a fire, and therefore have deleted this (IMHO illogical) statement. Maikel (talk) 11:51, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Well, regardless of whether it's illogical or not, the size of a four-alarm fire in one area has no bearing on the size of a four-alarm fire in another area. The statement is trying to convey that the alarm system works differently in different areas. In other words, the alarm system is not a standardised measurement, but, rather, a system which varies from place to place. --Xaliqen (talk) 07:41, 10 September 2010 (UTC)


Quote: The units dispatched on the first and subsequent alarms depend on what resources are available in the area and so changes from department to department.

This statement is incongruent, I can't work out what it's supposed to mean, so I've removed it. Maikel (talk) 11:54, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Hunh? again[edit]

Quote: The system of classification comes from the old tradition of using pull stations to alert the local departments to a fire in their area. The "box" would send a message to all local stations by telegraph that there was a fire, indicating the location as a number: (station area) - (box number), e.g. 11-2. Fires are still dispatched as "box alarms," following this tradition, with maps broken up into a grid of "box areas."

OK, but what does all this have to do with the "multiple alarm" nomenclature that is the subject of this article? Maikel (talk) 18:52, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Wow is this confused[edit]

There are bits that are right but most aren't. First, second, third, etc, alarms come right off the running card (box card, alarm card) for each fire alarm box. Each box represents a location and each one had a card (remember, the fist fire alarm telegraph was developed in 1852). The card lists the companies assigned (Engines, Ladders, Chiefs, etc). Early on, a Box would get the full first alarm assignment when pulled. In modern times, assignments are much lighter and the full assignment isn't sent until the incident commander requests a "box struck", that the dispatcher "fill out the box", a "10-75" is sent, or something similar. Well, every city that has pre-determined assignments and uses box terminology, anyway. If the incident commander needs more resources, he need only "transmit a second alarm" rather than specify each unit that he needs.

Just as importantly, the card lists the companies that need to move to other stations in order to keep the city covered as best as possible.


Now then, most cities don't use box alarm terminology. New York does, Boston does, a lot of northeastern cities do as does Chicago and I think San Francisco, Philadephia does. Oklahoma City and Dallas, too. Media in all other cities are making it up when they talk about 3-alarm fires or multiple alarms.

So, someone should rewrite this. --plaws (talk) 02:14, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Metaphor origin[edit]

The article claims that the metaphorical use of multiple-alarm levels in describing the hot-spiciness of chili is a result of the "tradition of cooking" in American firehouses. There is no citation for either (a) the claim that there is indeed a "tradition of cooking" in American firehouses, nor (b) the claim that the metaphorical use of multiple-alarm levels in cooking resulted from that "tradition." It seems much more likely to me that the metaphor exists independent of any "tradition of cooking" that may or may not exist in American firehouses, and that the mention of this "tradition of cooking" should be eliminated. Of course, I have no citation for this. Topdownjimmy (talk) 23:37, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

I have no citation either, but in US firehouses with career firefighters there is always a kitchen in addition to a dormitory. Before the 1950s, it was common for firefighters to work 84 hours a week; in fact, if you go back far enough, there was a time when they'd get one day off a month. Most places in the US now, it's 42 or 56 or some other fairly reasonable number of hours per week. Nonetheless, staff is there for 10 or 12 or 14 or 24 hours in a row and were there no kitchen, there would be no food to eat. About chili ... I have no idea. I'm neither a consumer nor a producer of chili but I believe it's fairly simple to cook and will not "go bad" if left on the stove for an extra 3 hours while a fire is put out. But no citations. I'm more concerned that most of the rest of the article is rubbish. --plaws (talk) 19:15, 21 December 2014 (UTC)

Merge with Fire alarm call box[edit]

I don't know the correct procedure to recommend that an article be merged into another but this needs to be put into the box alarm article (not that it's perfect!).

Media use of the number of alarms is directly related to the operation of fire alarm box systems in North America. Instead of an incident commander saying "send me three engines and 2 ladders", all she need do is say "transmit the second alarm" and magically companies are dispatched, other companies are moved up to cover empty firehouses and the IC goes back to their job.

Every box has a number and every box has predetermined responses: Here's a couple of Chicago's box cards. Each line is another alarm. Chicago cards weren't specific, but the first line is the "box" assignment, then the second alarm, then the third, etc. There are corresponding move ups, too. Cards were different in every city -- some only had three alarms, most had five, some went as high as 10 -- but they all shared common features. Of course, the cards are all now in the CAD but it's the same idea.

Initially -- thought I have no cite -- the second alarm (etc) was literally rung in by pulling the box again. Later, telegraph keys were added so that the chief (or more likely his aide) could send bell signals before or after the box was transmitted. I've even seen alarm boxes with a jack that would accept a telephone handset for voice communications with the fire alarm office. Nowadays, and for the last 40-50 years really, requests for additional resources are transmitted by radio. Go dig up the radio feeds for New York or Boston or Chicago and you'll eventually hear "strike the box" or "transmit the 2nd alarm", etc.

IOW, most of what's here is bollocks. --plaws (talk) 19:00, 27 December 2014 (UTC)


I ran into an article where the "alarm levels" are detailed and realized this article needed one so I added it.

Firefighters responded shortly after 5 a.m. and quickly called a second-alarm, said Rochester fire Capt. Edward Kuppinger. There was a small fire on the second floor and flames on the third floor going through the roof, Battalion Chief Michael Dobbertin said.

Firefighters initially encountered a frozen hydrant in front of the building but quickly found a working one, Dobbertin said. They briefly attempted to battle the blaze from inside the building but were evacuated over concerns about its stability. A third alarm was called about 5:20 a.m. to bring in additional resources, Fire Chief John P. Schreiber said.

B137 (talk) 04:24, 28 January 2015 (UTC)