Wednesday, April 25

The Number of Firetrucks Responding to a Fire

I know it's a big deal when there's a house on fire, and I can appreciate the desire to move an appropriate amount of resources to the fire in order to fight it and prevent others from occurring. But I have to wonder what constitutes an excessive amount of response. A recent Oakleaf Plantation house fire warranted "18 fire trucks and more than 45 firefighters," according to a local news site. If that's correct, I have to wonder if it's also right.

Last year, when I lived in Johnson County, Kansas, there was a huge fire that burned down an apartment complex under construction. The wind also blew "flaming chunks of debris" around, hitting 25 homes in the area. The biggest fire in Johnson County history, it was an Eight Alarm Fire. I don't know what that means, and I can't find any clear definition of what that is, specifically in Kansas. Based on widely varied sources online, I'll guess there were maybe 40 trucks at the fire. And over 100 firefighters. But that's a three-story apartment complex and fire spreading through the adjacent neighborhood.

So I'm wondering if a single-family home in Oakleaf Plantation should be basically a 3 or 4-Alarm fire (based on different counting methods). But it's actually pretty hard to tell how many units tend to respond to a fire. I read that one apartment fire in Jacksonville this year had a dozen units responding. I'm sure each head fire guy makes his own decision, but I just have to wonder how the decision gets made to send in this many vehicles down a dead end road.

I don't want fire to spread, and I'm not even criticizing the numbers. It just seemed like a lot. I remember back in Wisconsin when the Wauwatosa Fire Department was cutting hours because the average number of calls per firefighter were like three a month. I would guess that sending every unit to any fire would increase those numbers, but I assume that's not what's happening here, though I could see the temptation to do that. Again, I don't know these things, and it's not easy to find information online about the number of people and trucks that should respond to a fire. That seems kind of odd, does it not?

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