In case you missed it, the City Council tonight will vote whether to cut the fire department by nine positions. And the city has already taken a fire engine out of service. The southwestern part of Downey will now be served by a fire truck and a paramedic unit. Here’s what that means, according to Lamkin. Some of this is taken directly from a facebook thread between Don and me. And some is from a phone conversation this morning.
Here is some basic info to help you understand everything. Downey Fire Station 1 on Paramount Boulevard used to have a fire truck, a fire engine and a paramedic unit. The fire engine is going away if the City Council tonight votes to cut 9 firefighter positions, which will be lost through attrition. The fire truck is staying.
Downeybeat: When it comes to dousing fires, what’s the difference between the truck and the engine?
Lamkin: An engine company is smaller, lighter, quicker around town and the big difference is that it carries 500 gallons of water, a full complement of hose, and has a water pump powered by its diesel engine. It is the actual firefighter of the FD. The truck company aka “hook and ladder” is very large with an aerial ladder usually reaching 100 feet. It also carries a full complement of ground ladders and all extrication and rescue tools. Essentially it is a giant rolling toolbox but has no hose, water, or pump. When you see an aerial ladder truck shooting water out of an elevated nozzle, it usually supplied with its water by the fire engine. On medical calls in Downey, the fire engine is often the first on scene with a minimum of 3 firefighters trained to a minimum level of EMT-D and are trained to use a defibrillator to save lives in cardiac emergencies. The FD paramedic unit arrives usually a minute or two later after basic life support has already been started and is then able to establish I.V. lines and administer medications/drugs when needed. The engine company is so vital to its immediate district because they are first on scene with medical, rescue, and firefighting capabilities. I hope this answers some of your and your readers’ questions.
- After reading that, I called Don to make sure I understood that a fire truck can’t really squirt water on its own, even if there’s a fire hydrant nearby. Here is an extremely paraphrased version of what Don said.
Lamkin: It can if there’s a pump and water, but the truck doesn’t have either. You hypothetically can hook it up to a fire hydrant, but the water’s got to climb 100 feet until it reaches the nozzle at the top of the ladder.
- Don went on to say that water loses a little over 0.44 pounds of pressure for each foot it climbs. Water comes out of a fire hydrant with about 65 pounds of pressure. So the pressure at the top would only be about 20 pounds, not nearly enough for casting water out onto a building.
The bottom line is, while a truck has fire extinguishers for putting out trashcan fires or smoldering heaters, it can’t really spray water on a house without some help.
He also said the ladder truck is a great tool for fighting fires in commercial structures, but that it’s clunky to drive around town, especially during heavy traffic.
Lamkin: The truck company can and will respond to medical calls in that district but is generally a couple of minutes slower to respond than an engine because of size and slower speed.
- Residential fires in the southwestern part of the city will now be battled by fire engine companies from stations in the northwest or southeast parts of the city, Lamkin said. Most likely, residents will have to wait a few minutes longer before the fire department begins to attack a blaze, he said.
Here’s Don’s final quote: The reality is that the city is losing 25 percent of its firefighting capability.
– NOTE: I made a correction on this story. The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with the firefighters that reduced fire suppression personnel by nine people. The engine was taken out of service July 1. The vote by the council on Tuesday cemented the reduction in service in place.