BY JOHN “SKIP” COLEMAN
Question: What is the minimum staffing on your engine company? Has it remained constant over the past 30 or so years?
When I came on the job, we did not have minimum staffing levels. On occasion, engines would run with three, and trucks would occasionally run with two. Back then, Toledo averaged 120 firefighters on duty. When I retired a few years ago, staffing was different. The union had negotiated strict minimum staffing levels—four on an engine and three on a truck. We also had a minimum daily staffing level of 103 firefighters and officers. If staffing fell below 103, a firefighter was brought back on overtime.
Nationally, the average is fewer than four firefighters for engines and three for trucks. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710, Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments, 2010 edition, calls for four on engines and four on trucks. It also has provisions for minimum response levels within specific time frames. Few departments can measure up to this standard.
Where does your department fit in to the equation? Some comments follow.
Rick Lasky, chief, Lewisville (TX) Fire Department: Depending on the time of year, most, if not all, engine and quint companies run with four personnel. We will continue to fight for the additional personnel to bring all engines and quints up to four personnel minimum.
Thomas Dunne, deputy chief, Fire Department of New York: There are more than 200 engine companies in FDNY; most ride with an officer and four firefighters. In addition, when the personnel are available, 60 of our high-activity units are assigned one additional firefighter, giving them an officer and five firefighters. Very often fire strategy will be defined and limited by personnel levels even if you are riding with a fully staffed five-person engine.
Brian Cudaback, battalion chief, Arlington (TX) Fire-Rescue: Most of our 16 engine companies are staffed with an officer, an apparatus operator, and one firefighter.
Bobby Shelton, firefighter, Cincinnati (OH) Fire Department: At present, all fire companies have a minimum of four members in accord with NFPA 1710.
Robert Metzger, chief, Golden Gate (FL) Fire District: The organization started as a volunteer department, and a one-person-per-engine response was not uncommon. We now staff our engines with a minimum of three people.
Gary Seidel, chief, Hillsboro (OR) Fire Department: We may close a rescue company to keep our engines and trucks at a staffing level of four, and one of our four engine companies may be reduced to a staffing level of three.
Jeffrey Schwering, captain, Crestwood (MO) Department of Fire Services: Minimum staffing can be three or four members, depending on the day and the alarm.
William Brooks Jr., firefighter, East Wallingford (CT) VFD: Minimum staffing for our engine companies is three—a driver/pump operator, a firefighter, and an officer. This level has been in effect for at least the 19 years that I have been an active firefighter.
Clint Fey, division chief, West Metro (CO) Fire Rescue: Our organization strives to meet the NFPA 1710 standard that calls for four-person minimum staffing on all engines, but it lacks the budget to do so.
Frank Garrison, captain, Chico (CA) Fire Department: We have had minimum three-person staffing (captain, engineer, and firefighter) for more than 30 years.
Mike Gurr, lieutenant, Pompano Beach (FL) Fire Department: All of our engines ride with a minimum of three people.
Joseph Madzelan, deputy chief, Manchester Township (PA) Department of Fire Services: Our current minimum engine staffing is two.
Hassan Abu Khamis, chief, HSE Department, Doha, Qatar: We have eight firefighters and two fire engines on each shift. Minimum staffing for each is three firefighters. Two others are alarm room operators (they stay at the station); the other one is a station commander.
Joel Holbrook, captain, Washington Township (OH) Fire Department: We have adopted the minimum staffing requirements per our local mutual-aid agreement, which is three on an engine, a ladder, and a rescue; two on a medic, a tanker, and a hazmat and brush unit; and one on the air wagon.
Patrick Kelly, chief, Tucson (AZ) Fire Department: The minimum staffing on our suppression apparatus is four at all times.
David DeStefano, lieutenant, North Providence (RI) Fire Department: Our department has staffed engine companies with a minimum of an officer and two firefighters for the past 20 years.
Vance L. Duncan III, deputy chief, Erie (PA) Bureau of Fire: Our engine companies have assigned staffing of five personnel and require a minimum staffing of “four out the door,” per an International Association of Fire Fighters union contract award in 1986.
Read all the comments at www.fireengineering.com/.
John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author ofIncident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).