Anatomy of your fire department…

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Engines carry small hose used to attack fires, large hose used to pump water from a hydrant to another engine, and ground ladders. Typically engines will carry 3-4 personnel. Engines also respond to medical calls, so they carry Advanced Life Support equipment such as cardiac monitors. In an Emergency Medical System like we have here in Anchorage, engines respond with Mobile Intensive Care Units (ambulances) to assist with patient care, or in the event that an ambulance is unable to respond right away, to initiate patient interventions and stabilize the situation until an ambulance can get to the scene. There are 14 fire engines in the Anchorage Fire Service Area, covering just under 1700 square miles.


Mobile Intensive Care Units are more commonly known as ambulances, and are primarily used to provide emergency medical treatment and patient transports to area hospitals. Ambulances typically carry a crew of two firefighters, one of which is a Paramedic, and the other usually an Emergency Medical Technician. There are 8 ambulances spread throughout the Anchorage bowl and Eagle River. Downtown, Airport Heights, Tudor, Spenard, Muldoon, Huffman, Eagle River, and Dimond. These ambulances transported 13,475 patients in 2008 with one ambulance transporting almost 3000 alone.


Ladder trucks are easily recognizable due to the large aerial ladder attached to the top of the truck. Truck companies usually carry 3 personnel and are primarily used on fires to search for and rescue victims, ventilate structures using large fans and saws, and shutting off utilities. Aerial ladders can be used to rescue victims in upper floors of high rise buildings, and nozzles at the end of the ladder can be used to fight fire where hand held nozzles are ineffective. Trucks also respond to vehicle accidents where extrication tools (jaws-of-life) are necessary, industrial accidents, and water problems, and in the event that no fire engines or ambulances are near, will go to medical calls. Presently there are 5 truck companies operating in the Anchorage Fire Department. They’re located in Eagle River, Downtown, Airport Heights, Spenard, and Dimond.


Water tenders are staffed with a single operator, and carry 2,500 gallons of water to support fire attacks in un-hydranted areas such as Stuckagain Heights, Eagle River, or the Hillside. During extended fire operations in un-hydranted areas, all 5 AFD tenders may be used, as several may be coming back and forth from the incident scene to a water source, while the remainder of the AFD’s water tenders will be actually supplying water to engines and trucks actively fighting the fire.


Battalion Chiefs respond to incidents in suburbans. There are two types of Battalion Chiefs on the Anchorage Fire Department; Fire Battalion Chiefs, and Chief Medical Officers (CMO). These individuals are typically the most senior ranking officials on calls, and will often be in command of major incidents such as structure fires and cardiac arrests. On most days, there are three Fire BC’s and one CMO on duty at a time.


All Line Operations employees of the Anchorage Fire Department are cross-trained in fire suppression and emergency medical response, so medical incidents require the dispatch of one fire engine and one ambulance. Fore more serious calls such as cardiac arrest, the CMO will accompany the initial units to facilitate any needs and notify the receiving hospital of the situation. The majority of structure fires require three fire engines, one truck company, one ambulance, two Fire BCs, and the CMO. Of course, every call is dynamic in nature, and may require more or less resources.

2 Responses to Anatomy of your fire department…

  1. Syracuse says:

    Wonderful post! Incredibly informative :)

  2. Benjamin Mayes Kochendorfer says:

    These men helped save my family’s home in 1996 thanks for standing watch and being there’ to help when we needed you. I wouldn’t have been able to help when I was 15. Thanks for being there fast! Thanks for helping thoes in need!

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