Fire Fighters

November 25, 2012 2:57 pm

Would you willingly run into a flaming building? Would you risk injuries from broken glass, falling objects, and explosions to save lives and property? If so, you just might have what it takes to be a fire fighter.
Fire fighters battle fires that break out in homes, factories, office buildings, boats, forests, and many other places. Fire fighters respond to many other emergencies, too. They help victims of accidents, such as train wrecks and airplane crashes. They rescue people when earthquakes, floods, or violent storms hit. Fire fighters risk their lives to make our world a safer place.
Most fire fighters are members of fire departments. In big cities, fire departments have many neighborhood fire stations. Crews of fire fighters in the stations are on round-the-clock duty, ready to respond to fire alarms and other emergencies.
For fire fighters in cities, fighting fires is a full time job. Before they are accepted in the fire department, fire fighters must attend special schools. They are taught the skills needed for fighting fires and responding to other emergencies.
Many smaller communities have volunteers who fight fires without pay. When an alarm sounds, volunteer fire fighters rush to the fire station from their homes, farms, and jobs. Volunteer fire fighters get basic training to help them battle fires safely and effectively.
Fire fighters don’t just sit around the fire station and wait until a fire breaks out. Fire fighters begin to fight fires long before they start. Fire prevention is the most important part of a fire fighter’s job. The best way to stop a fire is not to start one in the first place.
Fire fighters inspect buildings to uncover safety problems so they can be fixed. They enforce local fire codes and state fire laws. They carry out fire prevention programs to educate people about fire dangers. They teach people what to do when a fire breaks out.
When an alarm sounds at a fire station, it tells the fire fighters where the fire is. Some fire alarms are boxes with switches people can pull. Most are painted red. Other alarms have smoke detectors or heat sensors. They automatically send a signal to a fire station when a fire breaks out. But most fires are reported by ordinary people using telephones.
Fire fighters rush to the fire, taking the equipment they will need. More fire fighters will be called to a fire at a school or a large building than to small house.
Have you ever seen a fire engine rushing to a fire? A fire engine isn’t just a ride for the fire fighters. Fire engines bring water, pumps, ladders, hoses, and other equipment to a fire. They also bring chemicals such as carbon dioxide that help put out fires.
Of first importance to fighting fires is access to plenty of water. Fire engines carry their own tanks of water so fire fighters can immediately attack a fire. But a fire engine’s tanks can quickly run dry. For this reason, every sizable city maintains a system of fire hydrants that tap into a water supply system. Hydrants usually stand every few hundred feet throughout a city.
Most fire engines use special pumps, called pumpers, to spray water. Fire fighters attach their pumps to fire hydrants. They turn a valve on a hydrant to get the water flowing. Fire engine pumpers are very powerful. They can shoot out 1,000 gallons (3,800 liters) of water every minute! In rural areas that have no hydrants, fire engines carry suction hoses to draw water from rivers and ponds.
Fire fighters also carry ladders, axes, shovels, picks, crowbars, battering rams, power saws, and other tools. They bring walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. To survive deadly smoke and extreme heat, they wear gas masks and protective suits that resist fire. They wear helmets to help protect them from falling objects.
For fires in or around water, fire fighters use special fireboats. Fireboats are fast and easy to maneuver. They pump water onto a fire directly from a harbor, lake, or river.
Fire fighters often don’t have enough water to battle large forest fires, so they use several methods to fight them. Fire fighters try to create gaps in the forest that the fire cannot cross. They dig trenches to stop the fire. Sometimes they set small, controlled fires to burn a part of the forest. When the forest fire reaches the area, there is no more wood left to burn.
Fire crews are trained to fight fires over large areas. Some wildfires require thousands of fire fighters to bring them under control.
Today, fire fighters spend most of their time dealing with emergencies that are not fire-related. In the United States, fire departments handle about three-quarters of all emergency medical calls.
Fire fighters rush to help people who have had heart attacks and other medical emergencies. They have special equipment and training to free people from fallen buildings, wrecked cars and trains, and other dangerous situations.
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