Category Archives: Firefighting

Firefighting

Firefighter Andrew Beiler raises a ladder at an acquired structure training.

Fall 2016 Firefighting Photos

Firefighter Andrew Beiler raises a ladder at an acquired structure training.
Firefighter Andrew Beiler raises a ladder at an acquired structure training.
Many thanks to the Jonas King family for allowing Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse Fire Companies to train on your vacant house!
Many thanks to the Jonas King family for allowing Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse Fire Companies to train on your vacant house!
Engine 41-1 crew advances a handline at an acquired structure training.
Engine 41-1 crew advances a handline at an acquired structure training.
Crews prepare to make entry at a training at Pequea Lane Training Facility.
Crews prepare to make entry at a training
at Pequea Lane Training Facility.
Since the air pack is a firefighter’s lifeline, it is one of the most important pieces of equipment he uses.

BIHFC Purchases New Air Packs

Bird-in-Hand Fire Company purchased 18 new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) at the beginning of 2016. These new air packs replace the ones that had been in use since 1999.

The back of every seat on the firefighting apparatus contains an air pack that the firefighters slip into as they head to a fire. The packs fit like a backpack. Both the backpack and the face mask in the new models are more comfortable with better padding and weight distribution.

With the air cylinder on his back, a firefighter uses the mask anytime he enters a burning building or encounters a hazmat situation, excessive smoke, and toxic fumes. The new air packs have a heads up display (HUD) in the mask that shows the amount of air left in the air cylinder. Plus the special connection on the back is universal across all brands and can be used by any Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) to resupply air when a firefighter is in trouble.

Chief Lonnie Kauffman says, “Another advantage of the new air packs is their true 30-minute cylinders. With the old packs a fire fighter had only 15-20 minutes of breathing air in the cylinder.”

Bird-in-Hand received a grant in the amount of $48,735 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through their Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). The total price for the air packs was $122,000.

Junior Firefighter Arlan Miller checks a gauge on his new air pack. The cylinders are industry standard with 4500 psi.
Junior Firefighter Arlan Miller checks a gauge on his new air pack. The cylinders are industry standard with 4500 psi.
driver

Positions within the Fire Company: Engineers / Drivers

The following article continues a series detailing various positions that our firefighters fill.  From basic skills to top management, all roles are vitally important in making our Fire Company function well.  We hope these articles help community members better understand how we function as a team using everyone’s strengths within a chain of command.

Joining hands to do the best job possible 

At Bird-in-Hand there is a pool of twenty Fire Company Members who drive the vehicles to the scene of an emergency. Many of these engineers are trained and experienced at driving all four apparatus: tanker, pumper, and two squad trucks.

The first responsibility of the engineer is to drive safely to the emergency. Driving defensively means always being aware of how the public responds to the apparatus with its flashing lights and sirens. In the forefront is the thought, “What is that other driver going to do?” Engineers make sure an intersection is clear before proceeding through a red light. The speed limit may be exceeded under normal and safe conditions.

At the emergency scene the engineer stays with his apparatus. He needs to thoroughly know the location and function of all of the firefighting equipment on his vehicle. That way he can help the firefighters secure the equipment they need as they exit the truck.

The engineer who drives the Pierce Lance Pumper is the person who operates the pump. There are sequential steps to manning the pump and with hours of training and practice, they become almost instinctive to the engineer. Operating the pump requires a specific skill set and the ability to work quickly. Experience also makes it possible to detect trouble or changes by listening to the various sounds that the pump makes.

After the apparatus returns to the station, the engineer has a check list that he follows to prepare the truck for its next call. If the truck needs to be washed, he enlists helpers. He makes sure that the driver’s seat is properly positioned, the radio is set on the correct channel, and all of the truck systems are reset. Also important is checking the fuel gauge; the tank must always be at least three quarters full.

At Bird-in-Hand a member has to be 21 years or older to begin training as an engineer. The first drives are around the parking lot of the Fire Station to get the feel of how to maneuver the apparatus. Then there are many hours of practice runs on the road and additional hours of operating the pump. Only then is the new engineer ready to drive the apparatus to an emergency.

A Note from the Chief: Five Essential Questions

When a fire company is dispatched for a house fire, there are five essential questions that need answers so that firefighters can do their job. Their priorities are protecting lives and protecting property, in that order. When the fire chief arrives on scene, he will immediately need to know the following:

  1. Where are the people?
  2. Where is the fire?
  3. How big is the fire?
  4. How big might the fire become?
  5. Where might it go in the next several minutes?

Answers to these questions affect where the chief tells the fire trucks to park, what he tells crews to do initially, and whether he calls the dispatch center and asks for a second alarm. At the Bird-in-Hand Fire Company we use our annual census book as one tool to help answer the question of how many people could be in a house (especially at night) and whether there are hazards present that could make the fire worse, such as a propane tank or oxygen cylinders.

Active Firefighting Photo Album

Photos contributed by Lavelle Beiler

Multi company training at Sight & Sound on Nov. 9, 2015. There were Sight & Sound employees hidden in various parts of the building and firefighters needed to locate them and “rescue” them.
Multi company training at Sight & Sound on Nov. 9, 2015. There were Sight & Sound employees hidden in various parts of the building and firefighters needed to locate them and “rescue” them.
SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) training on Jan. 19, 2016 with the new air packs recently purchased to replace the 16-year-old packs.
SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) training on Jan. 19, 2016 with the new air packs recently purchased to
replace the 16-year-old packs.

sight-n-sound_drill2

Joining Hands to do the Best Job Possible

The following article continues a series detailing various positions that our firefighters fill. From basic skills to top management, all roles are vitally important in making our Fire Company function well. We hope these articles help community members better understand how we function as a team using everyone’s strengths within a chain of command.

CAPTAINS & LIEUTENANTS

The captains and lieutenants are known as line officers. They are on the front line at the scene of a fire or accident and serve as crew leaders on the ground. The chief gives these officers their tasks and they in turn figure out how to get that job done. That means the officers receive orders and then turn around and give orders.

They know the abilities of all of the basic firefighters and understand their individual strengths. Thus, these officers know best which firefighter should be doing which job. They are well qualified to match the firefighters’ skills with the requirements of the job at the scene of an emergency. They depend on their years of training and service to help them organize and lead their ground crew.

In order to serve as a line officer, a firefighter has to be…

  • a very active member of the Fire Company
  • a senior firefighter
  • available to show up for calls
  • willing to go through the rigors of training
  • a capable person who can handles tasks well
  • physically fit with lots of stamina

The three company chiefs meet to choose their team of officers. That means the line officers are appointed, not elected. A certain level of responsibility comes with being chosen. Even though newly appointed officers might not feel ready for their positions, they know someone saw potential in them. They accept the positions assured of future leadership and mentorship.

In addition to being a line officer, they all have other tasks. Members of the present team have these individual responsibilities: in charge of confined space rescue equipment, in charge of engine bay, help with power equipment, in charge of managing turnout gear, and help with training.

When the officers respond to a typical call, two ride on the engine, one on the tanker, and one on the squad. When there is overlap on fire calls, they go by seniority since there is a respect that is learned in the ranks. They know each other well and call out, “I got it. I’m taking it.” In order to provide training and experience to his officers when there is a lower key incident, the chief will occasionally go to the back of the engine and say, “You’re up front.” That puts the officer in charge!

Thanks to Ephraim Stoltzfus (Captain 1), Junior Stoltzfus (Captain 2), Mike Burkholder (Lieutenant 1), and Mark Beiler (Lieutenant 2) for taking part in an interview for this article.

A Note from the Chief: Fighter or Provider?

Benjamin Franklin started a fire brigade in Philadelphia that had one purpose – to fight fires. Hence, the men were called firefighters. We fight against something negative; something people don’t want, such as a fire in a building.

Fire service in America has followed that concept quite closely. However, today’s local fire companies are much more than fighters. They are also providers; providing something people want. They provide rescue at vehicle accidents, assist property owners in investigating automatic alarms at local businesses, control hazardous materials spills, provide traffic control, assist EMS crews, and provide farm and wild land rescue services.

These responses all require knowledge and this means many evenings and Saturdays spent in training. What’s in the name firefighter/provider? Come see for yourself at the Bird-in-Hand Fire Station on the third Tuesday evening of each month as you watch your firefighters go through training.

Senior Firemen Keep Fire Company’s History Alive

Bird-in-Hand’s most senior firefighters met together at the Fire Hall on Thursday, January 14 for a morning of reminiscing. As Dave Haldeman (68 years), Glenn Siegrist (66 years), Dan S. Fisher (53 years), Les Fazekas (45 years), and Bud Shirk (41 years) told their stories, they flamed up fading embers from the past. John Schell (57 years) added his memories in a later interview.

Their stories follow a common theme of dedication to their community. Together they have served an impressive total of 330 years. These men were firefighters, chief, deputy chief, fire police captains, chaplain, president, and board member. In their words, “We did what needed to be done.”

Here are some brightly glowing embers that flicker from the past:

  • In the old days, the way to get started as a firefighter was to pay the annual dues and come to the fire meetings. There were also firefighting courses available but not everyone took those. Dan S. Fisher came to the meetings with his dad Dutch and then started going to the fires too. He “freelanced” at firefighting. “Whenever we saw smoke, we went to the fire. When we got there, we grabbed a hose and ran.” Firefighters came, but farmers and neighbors also showed up to fight the fire.
  • At a low point in the Fire Company, when only six men came out for the Fire Company meetings, the Brubakers from the Beechdale Duck Farm worked hard to keep it going. They said, “Let’s have a turkey dinner.” They supplied the turkeys from their farm and Vince Miller was the chief cook.
    Fifteen people were at that meal at the old fire station before the kitchen addition was put on the back. They sat on the running boards of the fire truck since there was no other place to sit. Today it is still called the turkey dinner, but instead of 15, now 150 community people gather to enjoy the evening.
  • Early on, the Amish in our community were encouraged to join the Fire Company. One of the first Amishmen was Andrew Beiler. He bought one of the two-wheeled handcarts that the firefighters used. It was pulled by a rope and the pressure was generated by dumping water, soda, and acid together. The water shot 60 feet in the air. The Beiler family has been faithful to the Fire Company. Today three of Andrew Beiler’s greatgrandsons, Andrew, Mark and Benjamin are firefighters.
  • Aaron Miller from Gibbons Road encouraged John Schell to join the Fire Company a few years after John bought his house on Beechdale Road and moved to the Bird-in-Hand area from Lebanon County. John suspects Aaron needed a ride to the fire station. When the fire siren sounded, John drove his pickup truck along Beechdale Road and slowed down enough for Amish firefighters to jump on the back. He arrived at the station with a full load!

There are still many more stories to retell from the January 14 roundtable discussion. Watch for brightly glowing embers in the next issues of the Fire Company newsletter.

 

Senior Firemen Bud Shirk, Dave Haldeman, Les Fazekas, Glenn Siegrist and Dan Fisher (not pictured) gather at the Fire Hall to tell their stories of long years of service.
Senior Firemen Bud Shirk, Dave Haldeman, Les Fazekas, Glenn Siegrist and Dan Fisher (not pictured) gather at the Fire Hall to tell their stories of long years of service.