Chief’s corner: Are you guys busy?

Kevin McKechnie

This is a frequent question that firefighters get this time of year. Folks wonder if we are busy and they also ask how fire season is going. While currently there is, thankfully, no smoke in the air, I can assure you, the firefighters are busy. I say that simply because firefighters are always busy even if there are no fires to fight.

Our primary deliverable to the community we serve is preparedness. We deliver preparedness to respond rapidly to high consequence events, those that can cause the loss of life or property. Like the power company delivers power and the water company delivers water, the fire district delivers preparedness. When called to action, crews don the appropriate personal protective equipment, mount the applicable apparatus, and respond to the call via the most direct route. On scene, the team works to quickly stabilize and isolate the incident to stop the loss and keep the incident as small as possible. Catastrophic emergencies are not scheduled and being able to respond when needed requires continuous preparedness. Firefighters deliver preparedness 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.

There is so much that goes into being prepared to respond and stop loss. Every day personal protective equipment is checked, fire apparatuses are operated to ensure they will function when needed, and firefighters conduct training for anticipated events. We are an all-risk agency which means our calls for service are highly variable. Our responses call us to the point of failure, a fire has occurred, natural gas is leaking, power lines are arcing, a car has crashed through the guardrail. Consequently, our equipment and tools must be much more robust and have higher reliability than standard tools. Ladders, pumps, hoses, and air packs must be tested to ensure functionality at the time of need. All this equipment and highly trained personnel are prepositioned in strategically located fire stations to deliver a timely response when needed.

Preparedness pays off. August 30, 2021 was a red flag fire weather day. The fire started on the deck of a lake front home and quickly spread throughout the upper floor. With the weather conditions, the fire could have easily taken 10, 20 or perhaps 100 homes. But instead, the pump engaged, the hose line was deployed and charged with pressurized water, the fire was extinguished and contained to the structure of origin. Of course, many other elements of preparedness were employed on this incident including the 911 system, radio communications, emergency water system, mutual aid agreements and the incident command system to name a few. It’s a massive system that is continuously prepared to protect our community and we could not do it without our partners.

As we deliver preparedness for the community, I encourage you to also be prepared. It’s football season which means it is time to: READY, SET, GO. Check out this website for some tips on wildfire preparedness:

Thanks for reading and I’ll close by saying, I’m keeping busy…

Columnist note: This article was penned prior to the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hi. My heart goes out to the Maui firefighters and the community of Lahaina. Unfortunately, as hard as we work we cannot be prepared for everything. Rest assured, we are here for you.

Kevin McKechnie is the Fire Chief for the Truckee Fire Protection District.

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