Staffing in the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. This topic has bothered me for a long time. There are several issues relating directly to staffing, and I hope to cover several of them in the next few paragraphs.

First of all lets talk about trucks being out of service. I think that if we had scrolling message boards outside of each station notifying the citizens of when the trucks are out of service and why, we would have several complaints. I know that a lot of it is part of life like going out of service occasionally and being out on a call, even out of service for training. However, being a firefighter on the Northside, it is amazing how often Engine 2 and Engine 13 are out of service due to manpower.

Now let me give you a little background. All of Roanoke City’s Fire Engines are staffed with a minimum of 3 firefighters (I will leave rank out of it). 3 of the 4 ladder trucks are staffed with a minimum of 3 firefighters. Recently, one of our Ladders (Ladder 7) has been staffed with a minimum of 4 firefighters. This is due to the fact that the Engine was taken out of service at that station and replaced with an ambulance. Better or worse, there are more issues concerning this removal of an engine. The Ladder that remained in place of the Engine Ladder combo now acts as a Quint, meaning the truck can do everything an engine and ladder can do (for the most part). The problem is that the truck doesn’t do anything on it’s own except sit quietly. Therefore, now you have 4 guys doing the job that in Roanoke requires 6 and in other cities requires 8 to 9 firefighters. That is right, in some cities, the minimum staffing is 4 on engines and ladders and even 5 on some ladders. But Roanoke apparently places a lot of stock in its firefighters by doing the job with 3.

I digress, the issue is staffing not removal of apparatus.

The point I was beginning to make with laying out the minimum staffing is just that; the minimum staffing is 3 on each piece except 1. If you walk in any fire station in Roanoke you will see 3 on the truck 80% of the time (just an educated guess). Where are all of the extra firefighters? Well the answer is that there aren’t many. With guys off on vacation, sick, and light duty, and vacancies due to retirements, firefighters quiting, and other reasons we are left with the minimum on duty.

So basically every day we begin with the minimum unless by chance a station here or there has an extra firefighter. Extra being used very loosely because actually an extra firefighter would be above and beyond the 4 assigned to most apparatus.

So that is at 0750 hours when we begin our shift. Soon, apparatus will be magically marked out of service because of numerous reasons. Company level training, individual training, drug tests, physicals, meetings, investigations, promotional testing, Captains meetings, and many other reasons. Basically, anything that would require at least 1 firefighter to leave the station and not be able to answer calls while being in their first due territory.

This is when, on the Northside, Engine 2 and/or Engine 13 are most commonly out of service. It is usually out of the Battalion Chiefs hands. They work with what they have. On the Southside, I would imagine that the situation is similar. I bet the citizens would have a fit if they knew how often these trucks are out of service, when just a handful of more firefighters would fix the problem.

In the past, I have been a huge proponent of minimum staffing of 4, or compliance with NFPA 1710. Right now, I am not even pushing for the minimum of 4, but rather just the minimum of 3.
After all, if we have to mark a truck out of service because a firefighter has to go to training then are we really meeting the minimum of 3. I THINK NOT. Minimum staffing of 3 should mean a minimum of 3 all the time. Doesn’t it just make sense. It seems to me like a cover up. Sure, the system allows for a certain amount of trucks to be out of service at a time. But for what reasons. Maybe we need to reform the system and add some positions just to ensure the minimum staffing is met.

I am kinda scared to ask for a minimum staffing of 4 anymore. The way things are currently going, if it was agreed upon, it would cost marking 5 trucks out of service unless of course we had every vacancy filled and everyone was at work that day.

I will leave you with a couple of things.

First of all, the Charleston review panel has come out with a recommendation of a minimum staffing of 4 in 2 years. Charleston FD is approximately the same size as Roanoke Fire-EMS.

Second, this video from the IAFF on NFPA 1710 (thanks for the heads up from Jay at Sorry for those of you on City Computers, you aren’t allowed to access YouTube.

Thirdly, this video from Fairfax County IAFF on the topic of staffing.

Fire Engine 7 has been taken out of service after 84 years of service to Roanoke’s Southwest neighborhoods. The engine was placed into service on December 13, 1922 when Fire Station 7 was opened at 1742 Memorial Avenue. A ladder truck was added in 1950 after Roanoke’s Firefighters added on an additional bay with a large bunk room above. The first Engine 7 was a 1920′s model Seagrave.
Engine 7 has been replaced with an ambulance (Medic 7). The other unit which will remain in service at Station 7 will be a Quint (Ladder 7). A Quint is a multitasking truck. Ladder 7 boasts a 75′ Aerial Ladder, Ground ladders, 300 gallons of water, hose, and a pump. In the grand scheme of Quints, ours is about as underdesigned as they can get. Ladder 13 is an identical truck and is only run as a ladder.

From the ground up, Ladder 7 has shortcomings. Here are a few of the major ones.

The ideal reach of an Aerial Ladder is at least 95′; Ladder 7 is 75′.
The ideal amount of water on an engine is at least 500 gallons; Ladder 7 holds 300 gallons.
The weight of the truck is obviously too much for the single axle design in the rear end.

From what I understand, Quint 7 will be run as an engine in its first/second due and as a ladder truck outside of that area.

The reason why I bring all this stuff up is because of what is going on in Roanoke.

Roanoke has the most aggressive Fire Department in the State! If you don’t believe me look around the State. We have had fairly safe history (knock on wood); and are very blessed by having quick response times, dedicated personnel, and hard workers.

So my question is if it isn’t broke then why fix it?

Several years ago, Engine 12 was taken out of service and replaced by Medic 4; the additional two positions were sent to Roanoke County at Clearbrook Station 7.

Now we lose Engine 7 to put another Medic truck in service.

Before you guys start screaming, I will admit that we need more ambulances. It seems like the City gets dumped daily and we are calling on other agencies to fill in and run calls for us. At what cost?

Think of it this way, if we are running more EMS calls then we are billing for more EMS calls and thus making more revenue for those EMS calls. Naturally, you would think that the additional revenue would be used to fund these additional medic trucks. Until I am proven otherwise, it is my understanding that the revenue from EMS billing is placed in the general fund of the City and not earmarked for Fire-EMS uses.

The additional Medic Trucks must come at a cost. That cost has become Engine/Ladder Companies. Our fleet of Medic trucks increases, our fleet of Fire Apparatus decreases. It seems as though we are on a crash course for potential disaster. Look around, most of the large incidents we have had in the past we have been able to handle with limited loss of life and property. But will the cost be greater in the future?

Here is the update on the new Engine 13 – The guys who travelled to Wisconsin to see the new engine and review the plans for the next have returned with good news. The picture below is Engine 13, which should be in Roanoke this week. It will arrive at Singer Fire Apparatus and proceed to be fitted with some of the final items like the deck gun and the nationally accredited sticker as well as a final inspection. After the finalization at Singer, the truck will move down the line to Roanoke’s shops and have the radios installed and the the equipment mounts. It is my understanding that the guys at 13 will be trained on the Husky foam unit on the truck. The truck will be delivered with most hand tools, extinguishers, and hand lights. The hose and specialty equipment will be swapped from the current E13 to the new one. The new truck is expected to be in service in about a month.

Engine 13 will be very similar to Engine 11, however it will be built by Pierce and have a Quantum Chassis.This will be the third Pierce purchased by Roanoke City. Here are some pictures of the truck in production.

Roanoke Firefighters took to the streets today for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Roanoke. The event was cold, but luckily well attended. Check out this link for the whole story.

Engine 3

This is a video of Warpipe playing at the Parade. I will have more uploaded soon. I am experiencing yet another issue of Windows Vista and its lovely security features. For you guys at work, I think that the City blocked Youtube, which is where it is hosted, so you will see a big black area. Sorry.
The Greater Roanoke Police and Fire Emerald Society

This is an interesting banner by the Roanoke Police Officers Association. More on that Monday.

Merry Christmas to all the Roanoke Fire Blog readers. The Fleitz Family is in Nashville for Christmas this year. The Blog will be on a little bit of a break.

Below is the beginning of a post I was working on the other day. I did not have time to finish it, however I thought that posting the legislative link might afford you the opportunity to learn about the up coming legislation.

In January, representatives from Locals across Virginia will be meeting in Richmond to learn about legislation affecting our jobs and benefits. Once the legislation is understood, the firefighters head to the General Assembly to meet with their respective Congressman and Representatives and lobby for the bills we want and against the ones we don’t. That is a brief synopsis of what goes on during the Legislative Conference. It is a learning experience each year. Luckily, for the Virginia Firefighters we have Art Lipscomb and Robbie Bragg III who head up our Legislative Committee. Click for Link


This is Ladder 2 which Roanoke Fire-EMS recently bought from Pierce. Ladder 2 consists of 2004 Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine, Allison transmission, 300-gallon water tank, 95′ platform, job number 15009
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Roanoke Fire-EMS is comprised of the following stations.
Station 1 – Ladder 1, Battalion 1, Rescue Supervisor (RS-1), Service truck 1
Station 2 – Engine 2, Ladder 2, Medic 2, Battalion Chief 2, Hazmat, Service Truck 2
Station 3 – Engine 3, Medic 3
Station 4 – Engine 4, Medic 4, Reserve Ladder
Station 5 – Engine 5
Station 6 – Engine 6, Medic 6, Technical Rescue 1
Station 7 – Engine 7, Ladder 7
Station 8 – Engine 8, Brush Truck 1
Station 9 – Engine 9, Medic 9
Station 10 – Engine 10, Medic 10, Reserve Engine, Tanker 4, ATF Investigation Unit, ARFF AR-2, AR-3, Tanker 10
Station 11 – Engine 11, Reserve Engine
Station 13 – Engine 13, Ladder 13, Investigation Unit
Station 14 – Engine 14, 2 Reserve Engines