Fire Suppression

Protecting communities from the ravages of hostile fires is the traditional function of fire departments. The creation of the City of La Grande Fire Department in 1887 was the result of devastating fires that literally burned up large sections of town in the 1870’s and 80’s. After the establishment of the fire department and up to the present day, responding to, containing and extinguishing fires has been and continues to be a primary mission of the department. However, the number of structure fires we respond to each year is declining. This is a good thing and is due in part to the following: The use and enforcement of modern building and fire codes, the move away from heating with wood or coal, an increase in the use of working smoke alarms in homes, a marked reduction in the number of people who smoke tobacco, the use of safer appliances in our homes and an improved awareness of how to be fire safe. Still, fires do occur and when they do, all of the resources of the fire department are quickly deployed in an all out effort to stop and extinguish the fire where we find it.

When a report of a fire is received at the 911 center, the center operators alert the on duty firefighters to the emergency through a series of audible alarms heard in the fire station. The alert is also heard on radios in fire department vehicles and pagers carried by off duty career and part-time reserve firefighters. The firefighters on duty respond immediately in a fire truck called a “pumper” and in an ambulance. The pumper has a built in water pump and a 750 gallon tank filled with water. It also carries a large compliment of fire hose of various sizes, ladders and other equipment used by firefighters at fires.
When alerted of the fire on the pagers they carry, off duty fire fighters respond to the fire station to pickup another pumper or pumpers and other fire department vehicles including our 101 foot aerial platform. All of the reserve firefighters respond in their own vehicles directly to the address of the reported fire when they receive the alert page. Once on the scene, the reserve firefighters don their firefighting gear in preparation for the imminent fire fight.  
Generally within 4 minutes of the receipt of the initial alert, the crews on the pumper and ambulance will arrive at the fire scene. A size-up of the situation will be made and one of the crew members, usually an officer, will assume the role of Incident Commander (IC) and begin directing fire ground operations. Fire ground operations will be conducted within a well defined incident action plan (IAP) developed by the IC. The IAP will address 3 incident priorities; #1 – life safety of possible victims and of the firefighters working the incident, #2 – incident stabilization and #3 – property conservation. To the casual observer, the actions and activities of firefighters working on the fire ground may seem chaotic and even disorganized but what they are doing is deliberate and directed.
The first incident priority that must be addressed and continually monitored throughout the incident is Life Safety. To meet this priority for potential victims, firefighters will attempt to determine if anyone is left inside the structure. They do this by conducting a rapid interior search for possible victims using firefighter search teams. The second incident priority, Incident Stabilization, is met as firefighters attack and then control the fire with water sprayed from fire hoses. The third priority, Property Conservation, is accomplished when the fire is extinguished and savable property has been protected. When all three incident priorities have been met, the incident is over and the firefighters begin the process of cleaning and restoring their equipment in preparation for the next fire call.