Monday, August 31, 2009

Hillsboro Firefighters Help on the Microwave Fire

One engine company from Hillsboro Fire and Rescue was mobilized along with other crews from Washington County to help fight the Microwave Fire last week. Our firefighters were used to help defend the homes in the areas between the fire and the heart of Mosier, a town of about 450 residents in the Columbia River Gorge. Hillsboro Firefighters remained on the fire lines for just over a day. They returned home late Saturday night.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) Drill

Firefighters must be prepared for any type incident, no matter how large. A mass casualty incident is any incident involving ten or more patients. Firefighters must quickly determine the number of patients, the extent of their injuries, and determine how many additional resources will be needed to handle this situation.

The biggest task of the first arriving responders is to get control of the scene and ensure the responders' and patients' safety. Often bystanders are attempting to help or watch. Police officers may be needed to secure the scene to provide firefighters/medics and the ambulance personnel the space to work.

The next step is Triage. Triage is the process of firefighter/medics determining the severity of each patient's injuries and assigning a simple Red, Yellow, Green tag to each patient. Red represents a traumatic injury that is immediately life-threatening and requires the quickest transport to a hospital emergency department. Yellow, represents moderate injuries that may become more serious over time, but can be transported within several hours. And Green represents the minor injuries of what are called the "walking wounded." They would be transported to hospitals only after all the more serious patients have been cared for.

A Treatment Area will require multiple crews to provide initial treatment and stabilization of patients before they can be transported. A Transportation Officer will coordinate the loading and destination off each ambulance.

An MCI with 30 patients would easily require as many as ten engine companies or about 40 firefighters. The Incident Commander requests additional resources as needed by ordering additional alarms.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pump and Roll

Most urban and many suburban fire engines must remain parked when they pump water. However, Hillsboro is surrounded by wheat fields and has a significant wildland/urban interface area where forest and field meet developed residential areas and commercial buildings. To fight fast moving field fires, firefighters must be able to move quickly along the fire line. Hillsboro fire engines are built to allow them to pump water while moving. This week's drill at the Washington County Fairgrounds is designed to give our firefighters practice with the skill of pump and roll fire fighting.

In some cases, it is much safer and more effective for firefighters to remain inside the fire engine while moving forward and directing a stream of water at the flames. At other time, especially during mop up, firefighters with hand lines may need to walk quickly along the line to extinguish remaining hot spots. In either case, they need practice at performing these maneuvers.

In cases where the engine can travel no further due to terrain, firefighters may need to deploy a progressive hose lay. That means pulling a fire hose to its full length, then clamping the hose at that point and adding a Y-connector and another small diameter hose to extend their reach. All this is done without shutting down the water flow from the pumper. This allows firefighters to quickly get water to rugged terrain where no vehicle can reach and provides the flexibility to add another line at the Y-connector, if needed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are Your Kids Safe at College?

If you have one or more teenagers headed off to college near or far, now is a good time to talk with them about fire safety! Since January 2000, 134 students have died in fires that occured both on and off campus. There were four common factors in all of these fires:

1. A lack of automatic fire sprinklers
2. Missing or disabled smoke alarms
3. Careless disposal of smoking materials
4. Impaired judgement from alcohol consumption

If your teen's college or university holds fire safety classes for its students, encourage your young scholar's attendance. If the school doesn't offer fire safety classes, talk to the administrators about how the addition of this education opportunity may save lives. For more on National Campus Fire Safety Month (September), visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aircraft Firefighting and Rescue

Since Hillsboro has a terrific asset in the form of a general aviation airport, Hillsboro Fire and Rescue is tasked with responding to aircraft incidents both on and off of the Port of Portland-Hillsboro Airport property. The Port has dedicated firefighters and equipment only at PDX. Our firefighters must be prepared for fires and rescue situations at the airport buildings and all types of emergencies from medical events aboard aircraft, fighting aircraft fires and rescuing crash patients.

This week, Hillsboro Firefighters are undergoing aircraft fire and rescue procedure refresher training for corporate aircraft. Global Aviation and the Port of Portland Fire Department teamed up to provide this training. Captain Chris Bryant of the Port's Fire Department provided a firefighter's perspective on approaching and dealing with aircraft in emergency situations. Global Aviation's Vice President and Director of Maintenance, Brian Lockhart, gave technical information regarding the vulnerabilities and hazards of corporate jet aircraft. The goal is to save lives and preserve property at aircraft incidents. Our thanks go to both Global and the Port for their assistance in this training.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Helping our Neighbors

Mutual aid is the term in the fire service for helping our neighboring fire agencies. Washington County Fire District 2, which borders Hillsboro on the north and south, had back-to-back field fires on Monday along with another fire involving two RV trailers that threatened a barn. That required the cooperation of numerous agencies to cover all of the bases. Our participation included engine companies, brush rigs, and a chief officer.

Hillsboro Fire Department responds to all incidents under a "closest resource" agreement, also known as Automatic Aid. Which ever agency has the closest resource responds to the incident. In the cases of the three fires on Monday, Hillsboro firefighters assisted peers from the main jurisdiction, Washington County Fire District 2, along with Cornelius Fire, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, and Forest Grove Fire Department. Banks Fire Department also provided assistance and back-filled some of the empty fire stations resulting from this trio of incidents. No one was injured. Flames reached at least 10 feet high in freshly harvested wheat stalks. The smoke column was visible for miles on the Robinson Road fire.