Celebrate Central: Central Fire Department

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By Mia Freneaux

Every citizen in Central gives a tip of the hat to passing fire engines; we all appreciate how they daily risk their lives to keep us safe.  It is doubtful, however, that any of us understand just what it takes– the training, the experience, and the dedication involved to become those firefighters.

The 29 full time personnel at Central’s 5 stations have had to undergo rigorous training just to be allowed to ride on an engine.  Recruits attend 240 hours in firefighter training classes to be allowed to graduate from the Recruit Academy.  Classes cover all basic aspects of firefighting: how fire behaves, the science of firefighting, Personal Protective Equipment (which includes using the air pack and hand held equipment), Equipment Usage (hoses, ladders, trucks), and fire prevention – all requirements of the National Fire Protection Association.  After successfully graduating from Recruit Academy, trainees then attend LSU’s Firefighting School for training in advanced areas.  There they learn Hazardous Materials Awareness, Hazardous Materials Operations (which includes decontamination instruction), Rescue Class (how to extricate victims from vehicle accidents), and Pump Operations Class (how to operate the fire pump on the Pumper Truck), for a total of 108 more hours.  To graduate from any of these classes, trainees must pass not only a written examination, but also “practicals”, in which they must physically demonstrate their proficiency in all areas.  At this point, trainees must then undergo 120 hours of EMT Basics for their medical training.  Every full-time firefighter in the Central Fire Department is a trained EMT.   Every member of the fire department cross-trains so that they can respond to any type of emergency, whether fire, medical or rescue related.  This gives our department a versatility other departments don’t enjoy.  Baton Rouge Fire Department has enough personnel that they have specialized units who respond to certain types of emergencies.  Our department doesn’t have the luxury of a large staff, so every member is trained to face any emergency, to our benefit. 

4 members of the CFD belong to an elite group who have received special training in Urban Search and Rescue – skills used in emergencies such as the World Trade Center tragedy.  There are so few of these specially trained firefighters in our state that our Central personnel have been called to respond to emergencies all over Louisiana.  For example, they spent 2 weeks in New Orleans post-Katrina, and also travelled to St Francisville to assist in a trench rescue.  

After then spending 2 years riding the trucks under the supervision of a captain, firefighters are considered fully trained and no longer rookies.  This is not the end of their training experience, however.  Every year, our firefighters attend 240 hours of continuing education training in firefighting technique, 48 hours of continuing education in medical technique, 3 hours of Haz Mat training, and 20 hours of continuing education in driving technique.  Officers in addition take 12 hours of Officer Training annually.  This is in addition to travelling to schools and organizations to educate in fire prevention, daily checking all trucks and equipment (including yards and yards of hose), and going to every business in Central to create a “pre-fire plan”.  This is a plan that identifies contacts at each business, locations of hydrants nearby, a floor plan, and potential hazards firefighters might face for every business in Central – over 300 at last count.  Every fire hydrant in Central must be inspected and maintained twice a year.  Central has a Grass Fire Unit (one of only 3 in all of East Baton Rouge Parish), consisting of a specially equipped Ford Truck and a Polaris Ranger.  Since there are so few of these available, Central responds to grass type fire emergencies all over the parish.  This unit has been called on 12 times this year in Central alone.  Grass fires are typically caused by trash fires that have gotten out of control, or by cigarettes thrown into dry ditches from passing cars.  A grass fire is categorized as one in which the surrounding grass and underbrush have caught fire. Trash fires are prohibited under the burn ban that exists for most of the time in this area.  Why?  The CFD has already had to respond to 46 trash fire incidents this year in Central alone.   Unlike the west coast where lightning is the frequent culprit, grass fires like these are caused by human negligence – unsupervised trash fires or careless cigarette tossing.  It takes so little to cause a major incident, but it also takes so little to prevent it.

The CFD has recently learned that the Central Community School Board will be donating the house located on the future site of the new Middle and Elementary schools for fire fighting technique training.   Starting Wednesday, CFD personnel will be practicing entering the smoke – filled building – no fire, however, will be involved.  The smoke will be generated by machine.  This is a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the training they have worked so hard to acquire.

Central Fire Department personnel, whether full time or volunteer, must be physically able to wear 45-50 pounds of safety equipment, including helmets, turnouts, and air packs, while carrying hand held equipment such as axes and pulling hose.  They have to face incredible heat when entering a burning building.  Temperatures at ground levels inside burning structures run from 300 to 400 degrees, at waist height they can go up to 600 to 800 degrees, and at ceiling height they can reach a horrifying 1200 degrees.  When you consider it takes 350 degrees to cook a roast, you get some appreciation for what our firefighters have to face.  This is why the EMS sends a truck to each fire to offer medical support.  Firefighters facing such temperatures in typical South Louisiana 100 degree heat and 90 percent humidity often suffer from dehydration and need on the spot IV’s to recover.  

When considering the dangers our firefighters have to face to keep residents and their property safe, it truly becomes important to observe good fire prevention, if for no other reason than to return the favor.  For fire prevention and safety tips, good information can be found at the CFD website –  Thanks to Captain Branscum, Captain Glover, and Emily Clark for their assistance.

A message from Captain Glover: Since January 1, 2010, there have been approximately 45 fire-related deaths in the state of Louisiana.  In all cases, there were no working smoke alarms in the residences.  We urge all Central area residents to assure that they have a working smoke alarm.  In addition, test the alarm once a month and replace the battery in the alarm every six months. 

1 Comment

  1. Kyle

    June 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Thank you for promoting the positive things in our community!

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