Recently there have been editorials, letters to the editor and blog posting against Measure S. One of the arguments against Measure S is that the fire district is too top heavy. A claim, much like the rest, that is not supported with any information, just a blanket statement. The writers generally don’t disclose their specific background and experience in the field of firefighting. So here are some facts about the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District’s staff.
Current staffing model 48 personnel
4 stations staffed with 3 personnel
2 stations staffed with 2 personnel (Bethel Island and Knightsen)
43 total and backfill 5 positions with overtime
The team members of the each 3-man Engine Companies in the ECCFPD are charged with one, big job: put a fire out as quickly and safely as possible. Be it from outside the building or inside with the flames, each person on that engine has specific responsibilities that require a unique level of training. Each 3-man Engine Company in our District is composed of a Fire Captain, an Engineer and a Firefighter. Regardless of the title all three will eventually play an important role at any emergency.
The Fire Captain is the senior officer at the station and is generally responsible for their station. On the scene of a fire, it’s the Captain that evaluates the situation, locates the fire, then decides which door, hallway, or stairway should be used to reach the fire with the proper amount of hose, establishes a command and draws up a plan of attack. Once the Battalion Chief arrives on scene, the Captain can then fulfill the fourth member position and become a backup firefighter, to institute the 2-in and 2-out safety rule. “The first five minutes determines the next five hours.”
The primary responsibility of the Engineer at the station is the maintenance of the fire engine and all tools and equipment carried on that fire engine. Once the alarm is sounded they are in charge of driving the fire engine and ensuring the safe delivery of the personnel and equipment to a reported fire or emergency and the delivery of water to the operating firefighting company.
The firefighter occupies one of the most challenging and dangerous positions during the fire. Their duties routinely take them in close proximity to the fire and require a determined and experienced member. The firefighter stretches the first length of hose with the nozzle attached to the location determined by the Captain. Meanwhile the backup firefighter, the fourth on the scene, (could be the Captain, a Battalion Chief or a firefighter from the second company on the scene) moves toward the fire behind the initial firefighter providing physical as well as moral support. The major function of the back-up position is to flake out the hose line while waiting for water and to facilitate the hose lines advance once it is charged.
Two stations in the District work with 2-man Engine Companies. They consist of a Fire Captain and an Engineer. Their roles in this situation are similar to a 3-man company. The Captain prepares the site, the Engineer drives and prepares the hose lines. But, they must wait for a second unit to arrive to begin appling water to the fire. Safety rules dictate a 2-in and 2-out policy.
It generally takes 5 engine companies to suppress a structural fire. As each unit arrives they all basically become firefighters assisting to put the fire out as safely and quickly as possible
Based on training and experience everyone arriving to a fire can be a firefighter, but not everyone can be a captain or an engineer. So, when that 3 or 2 man engine company roles up to your house in the middle of the night who do you hope is on that engine?
A yes vote on Measure S will not only ensure that the current service model stays in place, put every engine that leaves a fire station will have a 3-man engine company arriving on scene first and one member of this 3-man team will be a paramedic.