How does the Augusta Fire Department receive a call for assistance?
We receive our calls in a variety of ways. The majority of our calls come from the 911 dispatchers at the Augusta Police and Fire Dispatch. They take the required information and decide which units need to be dispatched. Another way we get calls is from automatic fire protection systems linked to various alarm companies. The final way that we receive calls is by calls directly to the stations, drive-ins or walk-ins. The fire fighter then notifies the dispatch center, then they dispatch the appropriate units.
How is it decided who responds to calls?
The city is broken into 2 districts (East & West side of the Kennebec River). Each station has a 'first due' and 'still' area of the city. The dispatcher takes the location and looks into a file to determine the 'first due' companies (engine & ambulance). If the first due units are busy, then the next closest units (second due) are dispatched.
I called an ambulance once; and a fire engine showed up. Why did that happen?
Our dispatchers are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatching to assist in giving instructions over the phone as well as assigning the right number and types of equipment. There are a number of reasons that a fire truck may be dispatched to a medical call.
1) Some medical conditions may require extra hands, like cardiac and breathing problems,
2) Some calls require specialized tools that are carried on the fire truck,
3) Sometimes all the ambulances are out on other calls. In these cases, the fire truck may arrive to begin life saving care until an ambulance can arrive & take over care.
Our engine companies all carry medical equipment on them and almost always have an advanced life support firefighter on the truck. We send an engine, so that care is not delayed. If needed, the fire fighters on the engine can begin/ continue CPR, defibrillate, start IV's, give medications or start oxygen. If transport to the hospital is necessary, members of the engine company can go with the ambulance to the hospital.
Do we always respond with red lights and sirens?
Not always. Depending on the nature of the call, the engine company or the ambulance will travel with the flow of traffic. This is a lot safer for the public and the responding units.
Does the ambulance always use the red lights and siren going to the hospital?
No. In fact, most of the time, we travel with the traffic. Why? All of our ambulances have at least 1 paramedic on it. The paramedics have many of the tools they need to stabilize the patient in the back of the truck. Many times we will get the patient into the back of the truck and work as a team to make sure the patient gets taken care of before one of us then gets out & drives to the hospital. This team approach makes sure that the patient gets everything that we can provide for them as quickly as possible. Occasionally we will use the red lights and siren, these patients are generally in serious condition. Even if we are able to stabilize them, time can be a factor in getting them to the ER for treatment and special tests.
Does a Fire Engine respond to all car accidents?
The closest engine company will respond to all accidents with injuries. This is for many reasons - #1 being safety. Perhaps the vehicle is on fire, leaking fluids or has smoke coming from it. Perhaps the person is trapped in the car. All of our engine companies carry the 'Jaws of Life'. If all of these issues are under control then the engine company can assist the ambulance crew with patient care.
I noticed that the fire truck and ambulance went through a red light, then after they got through - they shut them off. Why was that?
When this happens, the units are generally cancelled by somebody. It could either be the first engine company on scene or the dispatcher. Many of our traffic signals in the city are equipped with a “pre-emption device” that allows emergency vehicles to change the traffic light as they approach; it is safer for the public and the crew to continue through the intersection before turning off the emergency lights. No, this is not to get to the station faster.
I called because my smoke detectors were going off. Why did I get a whole street full of fire trucks?
When we get an alarm, we need to respond as though your house or business may be on fire. The first arriving fire unit is required to make a size up of the situation and can upgrade or downgrade the response of the other inbound units.
My alarm system went off & my alarm company called the fire department. After I found that the call was false, I tried to cancel you but an engine company still showed up. Why was that?
Once we are dispatched, we need to send someone to check it out. You probably are right, that this was a false alarm, but we need to make sure. Why? Perhaps your house does have a problem and you don't realize it. We can help you find the problem. Perhaps someone else cancels us, and you don't know it and you do have a problem. That is why we always send at least 1 unit to check it out.
How do I get a permit to burn brush? Are there any rules to burning?
In order to burn brush in the city, you must first get a permit. You can either apply for one on-line or come to any of the active fire stations in the city. Permits are issued based on the “fire class day” and at the Chief’s discretion. Augusta Fire issues permits the day of the burn & may require an inspection of the brush pile prior to issuing the permit.
There are rules that must be followed to burn such as, but not limited to:
Nothing other than brush/slash
No leaves or grass can be burned
No painted wood or building debris
No fuels can be used
Must always be attended by at least two adults