Firefighters have a simple way to describe what they do: Put the wet stuff on the red stuff.
At South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue, a great deal of planning and preparation goes into making sure that happens quickly and effectively. We know fire can double in size with each passing minute. We need to get the right equipment and a whole team of firefighters there to perform a number of tasks as quickly as possible to save lives and limit property damage.
Strategic location and staffing of fire stationsOur 14 fire stations are strategically located throughout our service area. Each station is staffed around the clock by highly trained professional firefighters. Ladder trucks are based at three stations – Lynnwood Fire Station 15, Esperance Fire Station 20 and Lake Serene Fire Station 23 – and fire engines are based at all other stations.
Assembling an effective firefighting forceDispatchers send a preprogrammed list of the closest available firefighters and apparatus -- all based on assembling the equipment and full team required to effectively fight a typical fire. For a house fire, this means sending two engines, a ladder truck, two aid or medic units and a command unit, approximately 15 firefighters. For fires at apartments or businesses, more trucks and firefighters are dispatched. Firefighters can call for additional engine companies for larger fires.
At the fire sceneFirefighting efforts are highly coordinated under a system called Incident Command. Actions are directed by an Incident Commander, typically a chief officer, with life safety as the top priority. Tasks include:
Search and rescue: "Is everyone out of the building?" That’s the first question firefighters ask. Firefighters search for victims and perform rescues.
Suppression: Firefighters wearing protective bunker gear and bottles containing a 30-minute supply of air, enter the burning building with a hose to find and extinguish the fire. If there’s a danger of collapse or other conditions that make it unsafe to enter a building, crews fight the fire from outside.
Ventilation: Firefighters open doors, windows or cut holes in the roof to release hot gases and smoke to make it easier for firefighters working inside to see and work.
Firefighter safety: At every fire, one engine company is designated to stand by with extra air bottles and equipment to come to the rescue one of their own if necessary. A safety officer is assigned to watch for and alert crews to hazards. An accountability system is used to keep track of firefighters working at the scene.
Salvage: Firefighters will cover belongings with tarps and take other steps to minimize damage. They may also open up walls and ceilings to make sure there aren’t any hidden hot spots.
Investigation: Fire investigators look for the cause and origin of the fire.
Support services: AIR10 responds to most fires. This truck is equipped with an air compressor to refill air bottles at the scene, supplemental lighting and supplies to support rehydration of firefighting crews. A fire chaplain and volunteers from Support 7 and the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross respond to assist fire victims.