| Firefighter, sometimes called a fireman, is a person who
is trained and equipped to put out fires, rescue people and in some areas
provide emergency medical services. The fire service, also known as the
fire brigade or fire department in some countries, is one of the emergency
Firefighting is the process and profession of extinguishing fires. Firefighting is important in urban areas where firefighters are on constant standby; in wildland areas, and on board ship.
Prevention attempts to ensure that no place simultaneously has sufficient
heat, fuel and air to allow ignition and combustion. Most prevention programs
are directed at controlling the energy of activation (heat). Fire suppression
sprinkler systems have a proven record for controlling and extinguishing
unwanted fires. Many fire officials recommend that every building, including
residences, have sprinklers. Correctly working sprinklers in a residence
greatly reduce the risk of death from a fire. With the small rooms typical
of a residence, one or two sprinklers can cover most rooms.
Self-preservation is critical. The basic technique firefighters use is
to know where they are, and to avoid hazards. Current standards in the
United States require that firefighters work in teams, using two-in, two-out
whenever in an IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) environment.
Tools are generally carried at all times, and a special device called
a PASS device is commonly worn to alert others when a firefighter stops
moving for a specified period of time. In the United States, the National
Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) sets a number of standards for firefighters.
These standards may be adopted as law by state or local governments, or
enforced by the firefighting organizations on their own.
Rescue consists of searching, and then removing people that are alive. Animals may also be recovered, if resources and conditions permit. Generally triage and first aid are performed outside. The general form of rescue is to shuffle through the structure with the right hand against the wall, or utilizing a tool. Many fire departments follow a two-in, two-out rule, and in a large room the second person would follow behind the first, usually on their immediate left. This is called a right hand search. There is also a left hand search, which is the same thing except the right and left are reversed. Rescuers must remember to search beds and cupboards, and to identify themselves to victims. Many children are very frightened of fire-fighters in breathing masks.
Rescue may also involve the extrication of victims of motor vehicle accidents.
Here firefighters use spreaders, cutters, and rams, tools more commonly
known as the Jaws of Life. More technical forms of rescue include subsets
such as rope rescue, confined space rescue, and trench rescue. These types
of rescue are often extremely hazardous and physically demanding.
Buildings that are made of fuel, such as frame buildings, are different from fire-proof buildings such as concrete high-rises. Generally, the fire in a fire-proof building can be limited to a floor. Other floors can be safe simply by preventing smoke inhalation and damage. A burnable building must be evacuated.
Property preservation is a great help to people. Most fires can be limited
to burning only the upper part of a frame structure. If possible, gas,
electricity and water should be turned off during the search, and all
movable property should be tipped into the middle of a room and covered
with a heavy cloth tarp. This reduces damage from water, smoke and burning
embers. If the structure doesn't catch, it's very helpful to ventilate
it to reduce smoke damage.
Fire control consists of depriving a fire of fuel, oxygen or heat. The standard way is to remove heat by spraying the burning solid fuels with water from a fire-hose. Some fuels float on water, and are actually spread by water (such as gasoline). Some departments can use chemical dust even on large fires. These are preferable because the property damage can be so much less than with water. Petroleum fires are more often smothered with foam. In electrical fires, the crucial thing is to turn off the electricity.
Most fires spread as hot gases move through the structure. Some fires can be controlled or limited by venting these gases to the outside. This can aggravate a fire if it introduces new oxygen, or permits a draft past fuel or structure, so it should be attempted only by veteran fire fighters.
Firefighters are constantly training and updating their skills on equipment. Some of their tools include extrication equipment, ladder trucks, tanker trucks, pumper trucks, and ambulances.