San Mateo Fire Department
The City of San Mateo citizens service academy spent an evening at the Fire Department. These are some of my notes and pictures...
The evening began a little bit late. They had forgotten to schedule no fires that afternoon ... so, they were just returning from a two-alarm fire. A nine-year veteran fire-fighter (that's him in the picture -- with all of the "reflectors" on their coats in the background) gave us a tour of the station except that we couldn't slide down the pole. I doubt that photos of their sleeping quarters, exercise area, kitchen, or even their unisex toilet facilities would be of much interest. However, what would a tour of a fire station be without photos of a fire engine... (these two are photos of a fire truck -- trucks are what we used to call "hook and ladders", and engines are what we used to call "fire trucks"). This truck can reach up to eight floors, but the tallest buildings in San Mateo are fifteen stories tall. It's amazing that if they had to fight a fire in a tall building that they'd have to run up from the ground floor (leaving the ladder to shoot water).
My wife jokes that male fire fighters are usually handsome and in great condition. Well, this is a picture for her --- yes, he's very handsome and in great condition. Just wearing that coat and helmet is tough since they weigh a ton... and then they have to be able to run up fifteen flights of stairs carrying 75 pounds of gear and hoses. San Mateo currently has two female fire fighters, but none were on duty this night. The fire fighters work a 24 hour shift, one day on, one off, one on, one off, one on, then four days off.
We spent some time chatting with Fire Chief William McDonald. He gave us a short introduction to the fire department, their plans for the future, and where we stand compared to other departments in the area. Last year they responded to about 7,400 "incidents" of which about 60% were medical and not fire related. This is a tough and challenging job. I'm just amazed that San Mateo fire fighters are below the mean for pay in this area!
Other fire fighters spoke on fire prevention and fire inspections. We were flabbergasted that the the builders of the condos going in at Bay Meadows were balking at installing sprinklers (seems that sprinklers are not needed for all new multi-family residences!). Another presentation was a slide show presenting photos ranging back about a hundred years.
San Mateo is in the process of upgrading many of the fire fighters from EMTs to be Paramedics. The plan is to have at least one Paramedic fire fighter on each engine. Since fire engines respond in about 4-7 minutes (or less if they can) and the ambulances can take up to 8-15 minutes, this would mean that medical emergencies could be responded to much faster. The fire fighter in the yellow jacket is in charge of the Paramedic training. As Paramedics, they are able to intubate and use the defibrillator (just below the intubation dummy in the picture).
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