Firefighting is one of those lines of work where no two days are alike. Emergencies simply don’t happen on schedules.
This morning the Colorado Springs Fire Department responded on two structure fires at separate apartment complexes. One such apartment fire in a week or a month would be a little unusual for this area, but two in one day, just hours apart, is rare.
Some days are just like that. I recall many times when the alarm would sound during shift change as I was putting my gear on the engine or truck. We’d be off and running, often with members of the outgoing shift who hadn’t yet been relieved.
Sometimes that one call would be the most exciting thing we’d face all day: A major traffic accident that tied up the Interstate for a few hours. A medical situation that was quickly handled. A long and labor-intensive working fire. Whatever the call, we’d return to the station, get everything cleaned up and restocked, and spend the rest of the day on chores or training because the alarm gods would forget about us.
Other shifts it seemed we were bearing the brunt of the alarm gods’ ire. Calls were just about non-stop, one right after the other. We might get a brief respite in between runs, maybe a few minutes to down some lunch. Then we were off to the next call. And the next. Other times we’d be lucky to catch a potty break let alone something to eat. We’d roll in the back door of the apparatus bay and right out the front before the vehicle even stopped. I used to carry granola bars in my gear for such occasions.
The number and type of calls a fire crew runs in a shift all depends on a variety of factors. (See? There’s that “it depends” thing again!)
- The community itself. Big city fire departments have a higher call volume than small town or rural departments. Makes sense, right?
- Which apparatus the crew is staffing. Locally, truck companies tend to run fewer calls than engine companies because they have a different set of duties.
- The area the fire station serves. Those near major highways will see more traffic accidents than stations located away from those arterials. Likewise, stations near places with a concentrated population (think schools, assisted living centers, etc.) may be called to more medical situations than stations in more industrial areas.
- Weather. Fire crews see more grass fires on dry, warm/hot, windy days. But on snowy days when icy roads are prevalent, crews will respond to more traffic accidents than on days with good weather and dry roads.
- Planetary alignment. Okay, I just made that up, but there were some shifts that simply defied logical explanation. Stuff just happened.