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Columbus › Public Safety › Frequently Asked Questions
Columbus Division of Fire
3639 Parsons Ave
Columbus, Ohio 43207
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The job assigned to a Engine Company is determined by the type of building involved in the fire and the arrival sequence on the truck. For this discussion, we will consider a small box or "A" assignment, which is the usual assignment sent to a report of a house fire. This type of assignment would include two engines, one ladder, one medic, one rescue, and one battalion chief. In this situation the Columbus Fire engine companies on a fire scene are primarily responsible for extinguishment and water supply.
The first engine company to arrive on the scene of a working fire is charged with extinguishment. Columbus Fire policy is for a quick interior attack on the fire whenever possible. This includes making quick entry to the fire building to find and extinguish the source or seat of the fire. Throwing water at smoke from outside a window will not put out the fire. The old adage is "you have to put the wet stuff on the red stuff." Of course every fire is different, there is no such thing as a normal fire. Initial fire line placement, method and location of the entry point, and fire line size are just a few of the variables that must be considered on every scene.
The second engine company to arrive on the scene of a working fire is charged with water supply to the first engine and then backup for the first crew in the building. These two jobs are usually taken care of at the same time by different members of the crew on the second engine. The "usual" procedure for the second engine company is to stop at a hydrant closest to the fire and lay a 5 inch diameter supply line on the way to the fire building, "lay it down coming in." This size supply line should be large enough to supply the first truck with water to spare. Once the second engine is at the fire building part of the crew will complete the hook up of the supply line to the first engine, while the rest of the crew will take an additional line off the first truck to backup the crew off the first engine.
The job assigned to a Ladder Company is determined by the type of building involved in the fire and it's arrival sequence. For this discussion we will consider a small box or "A" assignment, which is the usual assignment sent to a report of a house fire. This type of assignment would include two engines, one ladder, one medic, one rescue, and one battalion chief. In this situation
initial search, and ventilation.
The first ladder to arrive at the scene of a working fire will assist the first engine with gaining access to the building, "forcible entry." The ladder will usually divide the crew up into an inside and outside crew. Forcible entry can be completed by either the inside or outside crew, but usually the inside crew will take this job. Once entry is made the two crews have different tasks to perform.
The inside crew will do a quick search of all areas which can be entered. As they search, they will ventilate the building as they go opening windows to remove the smoke. They are also available to open up the walls, ceiling, and floors to look for fire which may be burning out of sight.
The outside crew will assist in rescue operations by placing ladders at secondary exit points to provide a means of escape for occupants of the building or firefighters. The outside crew will also assist in ventilating the building from the outside. This usually includes breaking the windows in the fire room from the outside. This ventilation will remove some of the heat from the fire area
allowing engine companies to get close enough to extinguish the seat of the fire. The exterior crew may also be asked to vent the roof to relieve the built up heat making it possible for entry to the fire area.
The Engine companies are responsible for fire suppression, so on the engine they carry the water and hoses. Most Columbus engines have at least a 500-gallon water tank. Each engine also carries a 1,000’ of 5" hose, which can be connected to a hydrant and used to run water from the hydrant to the engine once the engines 500 gallons has diminished. The engine, also known as a pumper, has a pump on it, which can pump over 1,500 gallons a minute. Also on the engine there are several hand lines which can be taken inside the building. The standard hand line is 200’ in length and is 1 3/4" in diameter. In comparison, a garden hose is approximately
¾ inch in diameter.
The ladder companies carry equipment that will assist with ventilation, forcible entry, search and rescue, and overhaul. Ventilation is important because it allows the super-heated toxic gases to escape and also allows the firefighters inside to do their work more efficiently. All ladder trucks carry chainsaws and circular saws. These saws are used to cut holes into roofs and walls. To be able to get into a building you need the right kind of tools therefore ladder companies carry many different types of tools. A couple examples are the hydraulic rabbit tool, which pulls a door away from the jam, and a drill set which allows ladder companies to drill locks out. For search and rescue the technology is now available to have hand held thermal-imaging cameras. These cameras allow firefighters to see through the smoke and see the victims. Our department has one on each of our rescue and ladder companies. Overhaul is basically cleaning up. Removing all the debris that was destroyed in the fire and make sure all hot spots are extinguished.
Columbus had it's first serious fire in 1822, which destroyed eight buildings. The town council, then, decided that Columbus needed a fire department. They directed the Mayor to draft, if necessary, enough men for a ladder company of twelve men, a fifteen man hook and axe company, and twelve men to guard property. All other men between 15 and 50 were to form a bucket brigade. They appointed a Supreme Director to take charge at all fires, and made the Town Marshal responsible for ringing the fire alarm bell.
The following year, Council bought the town's first fire engine which everyone called "The Tub." At a fire, the bucket brigade would pour water into The Tub while several men pumped the water from The Tub into a fire hose with a hand operated force pump. In 1824, an engine house was built on the Public Square, east of the State House.
Columbus became a city on March 3, 1834, with a population of about 2500 people. The new City Council passed an ordinance on June 11, 1835, which created a company of fire guards, a protection and salvage company, a hook and ladder company, an engine company, a hose company, and a company of fire wardens. Council also appropriated $1000 to build a new engine house.
Fire stations have brass poles to cut down on the amount of time it takes to get on the fire truck from the second floor. It is about ten times faster to "slide the pole" than to take conventional stairs. This advantage is not without its draw backs however. The major drawback is safety, the pole can be very dangerous. The fire pole is essentially a hole in the floor with a pipe in it to grab as you fall. If you grip the pole improperly or not tight enough your descent can be rather rapid. (32 feet per second) The rapid descent is not really the problem, it’s that sudden stop at the bottom.
Most of the "old" firehouses had poles when they were built. Some of these poles are still used today, stations 1, 14, 18, and 19 have the old "pole design." Due to recent safety concerns however most newer houses are built on a single floor plan to alleviate the need for a pole. The oldest "modern" station in Columbus with a brass pole is station one. The firehouse was so big and land costs so high in the downtown area that the single floor plan was not practical. In fact station one has four fire poles and they serve the same purpose and work as well as they did 100 years ago.
The oldest active Firehouse in Columbus is station #20 located at 2646 East Fifth Ave. This station was built in 1951.
Although, station 20 is the oldest active firehouse, there are a few older ones still standing. Old engine houses 7 & 8 were both built in 1888. Old Station #8 is located at N. Ohio Ave. & E. Market Al. and old Station #7 at Euclid St. & Pearl Al. The original station 5 on Thurman Ave. is now a popular restaurant and old station 6 at Mill & W. Broad St. is now an electronics store, both were built in 1892. Old station 10 is located right beside new station 10 at 1096 W. Broad St. and was build in 1896. It served the public until 2008 when the new station 10 was built. Old station 14 located at 1716 Parsons Ave. was built in 1906.
Other non-active houses are #11 1000 E. Main St.(1897), #12 Oak St. & Marble Al. (1892), and #17 2300 W. Broad St. (1897). Most notable of all the old firehouses is #16 at 240 N. Fourth St. (1908) which has been restored to it's original beauty on the outside and is the location of The Central Ohio Firefighter's Museum.
A day at the firehouse consists of a 24 hour tour of duty, which begins at 0800 roll call. Generally, a firefighter must remain with his/her crew the entire tour and "live" at the firehouse. One of the firefighters is designated the "cook" and collects approx. $8 from each firefighter for the "mess." The cook goes to the supermarket and buys enough groceries for the crew for that day.
Firefighters are permitted 1 hour each day for physical fitness training. Many choose to engage in weightlifting or aerobic exercises. You might see a friendly game of basketball or volleyball behind the engine house. Whichever manner is chosen, the objective is the same: to remain physically fit to endure the rigors of the job.
One Firefighter is designated the "watchman." The watchman is responsible for such duties as raising the flag, answering the phones, keeping the company log, and monitoring the base radio, and greeting engine house visitors.
The rest of the crew works together to keep the firehouse clean and the apparatus in good working condition. There are other duties such as fire prevention inspections, hose tests, hydrant inspections, and in-service training.
Firefighters spend some time during every shift training in some way. This may consist of studying maps or driving streets. There are structured training sessions covering the vast scope of knowledge which firefighters must keep up to date. Subjects include: Hazardous Materials, Building Construction, Electrical Emergencies, River Rescue, Basic Trauma Life Support, Hose Lays, Ladder Evolutions, Pump Operations, Communications, etc..
While all these routine duties are being accomplished, firefighters must be prepared to drop everything and respond at a moment's notice to a wide variety of emergency situations. A typical day might include a few fire alarms, a couple auto accidents, several medical emergencies, and a house fire. After 10pm, the firefighters are permitted to lie down and catch a series of "cat naps" between emergency runs over the course of the night.