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  • What We Do

    "WE DO IT ALL...."   We take pride in our role as professional fire fighters.  Every day, we do whatever it takes to help the citizens in the communities we serve.

    The members of the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association are dedicated to saving lives and protecting property. We provide high quality fire protection, medical aid, rescue services, hazardous material response, fire preventon and education services while protecting the public we serve with honour and pride.

    “ WE DO IT ALL…”

    Over 3,600 professional fire fighters belong to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association. They work in forty-four municipalities, districts and cities across the province.  Saving lives is their primary concern, but professional fire fighters perform a variety of emergency and non-emergency tasks.


    BC’s Professional Fire Fighters handle all types of structure fires including house and garage fires, apartment fires, industrial and manufacturing plant fires, and school fires. We also fight vehicle fires - everything from cars and motorcycles to trucks and tractor-trailer rigs. Other types of fire that we deal with include rail cars, aircraft, marine craft, garbage containers and this year in particular - bush and grass or "wildland" fires.

    The number of fire fighters responding to a fire varies from one jurisdiction to the next, and depends on the severity of the fire. Some jurisdictions immediately respond with two fire suppression personnel, while others send four to six fire fighters per engine.  The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that 15 - 17 personnel respond to a single family house fire, due to the many tasks and responsibilities which need to be taken care of at a fire scene.  These include but are not limited to such roles as Incident Commander and their aide/driver, pump operators, ladder operators, hydrant taker, attack crews, ventilation crews, rescue crews (for civilian victims) and Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT) for the rescue of trapped fire fighters.

    The fire fighter performs many tasks when fighting a structure fire.  They include attacking, containing, controlling and extinguishing the fire.  For example, after a 4 inch supply line is connected from the hydrant to the truck, a 150-foot long, 1-3/4 inch pre-connected fire hose is taken from the truck to the fire.  These hoses weigh approximately 200 pounds, with a water pressure of 100 psi (pounds per square inch) at the nozzle.

    Fire fighters enter the burning structure for a systematic search and rescue of potential casualties, to remove anyone found to a safe area. Other fire fighters may strategically cut holes in the roof or break out certain windows to direct the smoke and/or fire in a certain direction.  Once a fire is controlled fans are set up for additional ventilation.  The fans force in clean air, which pushes the smoke outside.  Directing a v-shaped stream from the nozzle through an open window will also draw smoke from the fire to the outside.  If a fire is contained, tarps are often used to protect people’s furniture and personal possessions.

    Fire fighters give the fire scene an overhaul by checking for hidden fires.  Hot spots are often found near metal junction boxes where light fixtures and switches are located.  Brick, gyproc, stucco, plaster and wood can hold heat, too.

    To make the premises safe and protect the contents fire fighters check ceilings for stability, and remove some larger pieces of debris as part of the salvage operation.

    The on-scene fire investigator can usually determine the cause of the fire.  This may help prevent future fires, or it can help the police to expose arsons and "set" fires that are lit in order to make fraudulent insurance claims. 

    Auto Extrication
    and Equipment Rescue

    Most vehicle and industrial accidents are minor. At times, fire fighters are required to stabilize the accident scene (the vehicle or equipment and the patient), control hazards, and assist police and ambulance agencies in providing quality patient care.  Fire fighters check the scene for downed power lines, damaged electrical kiosks, whether there is fuel leaking and what type of fuel it is, and any other potential danger.  They then examine the type of vehicle or equipment involved and the number of occupants/patients in order to plan an efficient and expedient rescue.

    Often the fire fighter must ensure that the vehicle is stable so it does not shift during the rescue, which could endanger both those that are injured and the emergency personnel on scene.  They help the injured by providing basic first aid – supporting their head and neck, and stabilizing any broken bones, dressing open wounds, etc. – before other medical assistance arrives.

    At industrial accidents, they go through a similar process.  Frequently people need to be extricated from the machinery, which is heavier than at most vehicle accidents.  The fire fighters use small hand tools, hacksaws, or wrenches to dismantle the equipment or machinery.  In some cases, the Jaws of Life can be used, along with air chisels and reciprocating saws.

    After the accident patients and their vehicles are removed from the scene and the police have completed their investigation, the fire fighters clear the area of debris and are often the last to leave the scene.

    First Responder (Medical)

    All of BC’s Professional Fire Fighters are licensed First Responders. From a child choking, to a person suffering a heart attack or a fall, the fire fighter provides pre-hospital care when someone is injured or experiences a medical problem. In some departments, fifty to seventy-five per cent of the day’s work is responding to First Responder type incidents.

    Hazardous Materials Response

    The number of unknowns often poses a larger threat than the spill, leak, fire or break. HazMat teams are trained to handle material spills, leaks and fires. They include: natural and chlorine gas leaks, gasoline spills, fuel tanker, rail car, boat and industrial accidents, in addition to chemical spills and radiation leakage.

    Specialty Responses

    Performing high angle technical rescue like those on
    the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver, to rescuing window washers and construction workers, Specialty Response Fire Fighters require hours of extra training. They must be re-certified every three months. Other specialty rescues include ice and swift water rescue, performed most often in the north and interior of the province, and marine and air crash rescues.

    Fire and Safety Inspections

    Professional Fire Fighters are assigned a number of inspections per month. They ensure that a building complies with the B.C. Fire Code and the B.C. Building Code, that there is overall worker and community safety, and that inhabitants or workers are aware of fire escape procedures.

    Fire Investigations

    Fire investigators work to determine the cause of fires, and help prevent future fires and expose fraud. The first fire fighters on the scene begin the investigation: what they see on approach, arrival and during fire fighting. Most departments’ fire prevention divisions have specially trained investigators or inspectors.

    Public Service Calls

    From fire alarms in schools or apartment buildings, to assisting the elderly if they have fallen and are unable to get up, fire fighters often perform public service calls.  9-1-1 operators generally downstream these calls to the fire service and, depending on the department involved, they can constitute a anywhere from a minimal to a significant percentage of the day-to-day work of a fire fighter. 

    Protecting the public, they serve with honour and pride

    Saving lives is a fire fighter’s primary concern. In turn, they put their lives at risk every time they fight a fire.

    Extreme stresses are put on fire fighter’s bodies while they fight a fire. Their protective gear includes a self-contained breathing apparatus, rubber boots, protective pants, jacket, helmet and gloves – which adds an extra forty five pounds. The breathing apparatus contains air only, and is regulated for up to 30 minutes use, although with the exertion, a 200-pound, six-foot-tall fire fighter can use the air in half the time. The weight of the hose, carrying an axe and pry-bar adds 120 pounds or more, for 165 additional pounds. Pulse rates can increase from 60 to 130 or more. 

    At larger fires fire fighters must take breaks. Their blood pressure, pulse and temperature is checked before they receive the OK to return to fighting the fire.  They also replenish their fluid levels and take nourishment.

    Training and Education

    BC’s Professional Fire Fighters must have a high school diploma and many have post-secondary education. They receive ongoing training to maintain the skill level required to perform their job.

    Their specialty training includes fire fighting, search and rescue, auto extrication and equipment rescue, first responder (medical), equipment maintenance, hazardous materials response, high angle rescue, ice and swift water rescue, marine and air crash rescue, fire and safety inspections, fire investigations, and public fire and safety education.

    The Fire Officer’s Responsibilities

    Fire Officers are responsible for assessing the incident, planning ways to attack a fire, or lessen the severity of the incident. They request and allocate additional resources and bring an end to the incident. Once an incident is dealt with, the officer (usually a Captain) is responsible for filing a complete report.

    Internationally Recognized
    Safe Staffing Levels

    Although staffing varies in communities throughout the province depending on its needs and demands, the internationally recognized safe staffing levels set out by the NFPA are:

    Each fire engine should be staffed with four persons (an officer in charge and three fire fighters) and five in high-hazard areas such as heavy industrial or densely populated urban areas. Ladder trucks should be staffed with five persons (an officer and five fire fighters) and six in high-hazard, densely populated urban areas such as the West End of Vancouver.

    Educating the community

    Public education is one of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association highest priorities. It is through the education process that the Professional fire fighters of the province help take care of the children and community. Public education reduces the loss of lives and property due to fire.

    The B.C. Professional
    Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund

    Professional fire fighters throughout the province dedicate their time and skills to help burn survivors. The Burn Fund has committed one million dollars in funding to the new Burn Unit at Vancouver Hospital — one of the largest corporate donations to the Vancouver Hospital Foundation. It operates the annual Children’s Burn Camp in Squamish, for young survivors of burns, and raises money to upgrade and purchase new equipment for hospitals in B.C. For more information about the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund, or to make a donation, call 604-436-5617


    Professional fire fighters work shifts to provide their community 24-hour-a-day protection.

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