When a fire burns in a building (especially newer, more airtight ones) the temperature can reach thousands of degrees. Fire, even relatively small ones, can generate extreme amounts of smoke. This smoke is deadly to anyone who breathes it and is often impossible to see through. Because heat and smoke rises, the best way to get rid of it, and its dangers, is to cut a hole in the roof and allow it to escape, just like a chimney.
The Fire Department responds to all different types of emergencies. Some smaller fires or other emergencies only need one truck to respond, something like an outside garbage bin on fire needs just one engine and a few firefighters to respond. A car accident needs a bit more equipment, so the Rescue also responds with more tools and firefighters. A fire in a building calls for the largest response, which is two engines, two tankers, the rescue, and often the utility vehicle.
Since there are no fire hydrants in Grand Bay-Westfield, we must bring the water to the scene using tankers. These tankers then have to travel back and forth between the fire and the nearest source of water. Some fires take more than 30,000 gallons (135,000 liters) of water to extinguish. For fires that need that much water we often rely on neighbouring fire departments to help by sending one of their tankers to help shuttle water to the fire.
Firefighting is an extremely hazardous activity; in order for our members to do it safely, they must undertake a great deal of training. To become a frontline firefighter (frontline means that they are able to enter a burning building) can take at least a year and as much as two years. This does not mean, though, that new firefighters can’t still respond to calls in their first year or two. During this time there are lots of other things firefighters learn and are able to do much sooner and there are always more experienced firefighters there to guide them.
These tanks are called Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, and they carry breathing air for the firefighters to breathe while in smoke or other hazardous environments. While lots of people call them oxygen tanks, they actually contain regular air only.
Firefighters in Grand Bay-Westfield are trained to the Medical First Responder level. We are dispatched to the more serious medical emergencies to provide emergency medical care; we also carry a defibrillator should we arrive and find someone in cardiac arrest. While we don’t always arrive before the ambulance, firefighters provide an invaluable service assisting paramedics. Ambulances in New Brunswick respond with two paramedics. While they are certainly capable of handling these calls on their own, the assistance of firefighters with patient care, lifting heavier patients, carrying equipment, and helping with the stretcher, helps the paramedics do their jobs a little more quickly and safely. If we can help save a few minutes on scene, that’s a few minutes sooner the patient gets to a hospital. Just like with a fire, a few minutes can make a big difference.
Medical emergencies are also often very traumatic for the families. Firefighters can be there to help talk to the family about what is going on, where their family member is going to be taken, and where they can meet them. In very serious emergencies firefighters are also available to go with the paramedic in the back of the ambulance to assist with CPR or other treatment.
Each colour of helmet represents the firefighter’s level of training or their rank in the Department. Yellow helmets are worn by members who are not frontline firefighters. These can be new firefighters still in the training phase, or they can be firefighters who fill support roles such as being a Driver/Operator. Once fully trained, a firefighter becomes frontline and they change to a black helmet. Officers (those in charge of a crew of firefighters) wear red helmets, and finally Chief Officers (the Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief) wear white helmets. This all helps us to easily identify each other, especially when we are wearing our air supply face masks.
This trailer, known as Rescue 5, carries our off-road rescue and ice rescue equipment.
Our trucks are equipped with a gas detector that is capable of detecting levels of carbon monoxide. If your carbon monoxide alarm is sounding continuously, call 911 and leave the home. Do not open windows or ventilate the home as this may prevent the responding firefighters from getting an accurate reading.
Unfortunately this is a service we don’t provide. In fact, we don’t even do our own extinguishers. There are a couple of local companies that can help you with your extinguisher. Just look in the yellow pages under fire extinguishers and you will see them.
Fire extinguishers should be disposed of properly and not thrown in with regular household garbage. Fire extinguishers have pressure stored inside and can explode under certain conditions. Extinguishers can be taken to the Crane Mountain landfill site and brought to the Public Drop-Off. There is no charge for bringing household extinguishers to the landfill.
Firefighters wear protective boots, pants, coat, gloves, helmet, flash hood, and a breathing air pack with face mask; all together this clothing and gear weighs between 60 and 70 pounds (27 to 32 kilograms).