What We Do
Since the days of the Vigiles in Ancient Rome to today’s modern fire fighter, suppression has been one of the most dangerous and important operations we conduct. Our members put civilian lives before their own and we firmly believe in aggressive interior fire attack, meaning we go in and attack the fire from inside the structure.
Fire suppression is much more than just putting water on fire, it is a coordinated attack in which hose lines are moved inside the structure, ventilation (vertical and/or horizontal) is conducted and while that is going on rescue operations are simultaneously being conducted. Firefighters assigned to stretch a hose line will pull a charged hose line into the structure, once inside they will look for the main body of fire and operate their line to extinguish the fire. On most fire scenes a minimum of 2 lines will be stretched into the structure. If assigned to ventilation the firefighters may take windows (horizontal ventilation) in coordination with the crew on the line to help vent heat and gasses. If vertical ventilation is called for members will access the roof and open a hole to allow heat and gasses to escape. If assigned to search and rescue, the members will enter the structure without the protection of a hand line and actively search the area closest to the fire first then work their way outward. Or they may conduct VES or Vent Enter Search when it is indicated.
Once the fire is out, there is still a lot of work to do, overhaul must be completed to ensure there is no extension of the fire within concealed spaces. Also our members may be instructed to perform salvage operations to limit damage to contents within the fire building.
Paramedic Level Emergency Medical Response
As the fire service has evolved to include Emergency Medical Services (EMS) so have the members of IAFF Local 859. In 1987 the department upgraded from basic level EMS response to intermediate level to meet the growing demand for advanced level care in the pre-hospital setting. Over the first few years of this new advanced program and as EMS matured throughout the nation our members became certified to use defibrillators, and perform endotracheal intubation, which at the time were typically interventions used in hospitals. These new interventions and the higher level of care helped countless citizens in need and became the foundation to our current Paramedic level EMS program.
As the role of fire departments on EMS runs became more important and treatments became more complex our response was upgraded to the Paramedic level. With the first Paramedics going “on line” in the spring of 2000. Since 2000, our program has grown and now of our 25 members we have 12 Paramedics and 2 Critical Care Technicians.
Below are a few of the interventions performed on a regular basis by our medics:
- IV Access: Allowing our medics to provide fluids, medications and draw bloods to help streamline care for a patient.
- Medication Administration: From albuterol to zofran and many more in between, our medics are able to administer a multitude of medications on standing order to treat a wide array of illnesses and injuries. Many of the medications we administer have a direct impact on the survivability of a patient experiencing a medical emergency.
- Advanced Airway Placement: Endotracheal intubation is the benchmark for advanced airway management in both the pre-hospital and hospital environments and our medics are trained in this life saving intervention. We also can place rescue airways like the King LT and other blind insertion devices in situations in which an ET tube is unable to be placed.
- Defibrillation/Cardioversion/Pacing: Equipped with modern cardiac monitors our medics can perform defibrillation during cardiac arrests. They can also perform interventions to slow a rapid heart rate (cardioversion) or they can raise a low heart rate via our transcutaneous pacing ability (pacing). These interventions are only used on the most serious of patients, many of which are unconscious or experiencing symptoms that indicate an immediate threat to their life.
- Cardiac Monitoring: Pre-hospital cardiac monitoring has become a benchmark of care and our medics perform 3-Lead and 12-Lead EKG monitoring. The 12-Lead has become extremely important in recent years as the providers in the field are teaming up with hospitals to identify ST Elevation Myocardial Infarctions (STEMI’s), perform integral treatments and interventions in the field and activate the cardiac cath teams to lower “911-balloon” or “911-Stent” times and improve patient outcomes.
- Stroke Care: Our medics are trained to identify Stroke symptoms in the field, perform necessary field interventions and activate the Stroke Teams at local hospitals so that patients experiencing a Stroke are treated as quickly as possible.
Those are just a few of the interventions our medics can provide in the pre-hospital setting. As our scope of practice grows due to the needs of our population we will continue to improve and answer the call to provide the absolute best care to our citizens and visitors of our fine city.
Technical & Specialized Rescue
Over time everything changes and it has been no different for the fire service. Today our firefighters respond to a vast array of emergencies and disasters, many of which involve and require special equipment and specialized training. Your City of Tonawanda Professional Firefighters are no different and although the bulk of our calls are emergency medical and traditional fire calls we provide a higher level of safety, preparedness and readiness with our training in several fields of technical and specialized rescue.
Confined Space Rescue: A confined space is a space large enough for someone to enter and do work, but has limited means for entry/exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. A permit controlled confined space is a space containing or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere, contains a material that has the potential to engulf the entrant, has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section. Our members are trained to monitor, enter and effect rescues in these spaces. Although a confined space rescue is a low frequency event, this is one of the most hazardous environments to operate in and around. Currently we are one of two confined space teams for Erie County.
Ice and Water Rescue: If you enjoy the water, own a boat, jet ski or maybe you ice fish in the winter, your City of Tonawanda Professional Firefighters are trained and ready to respond to an emergency if one were to occur. We spend many hours training and learning the skills of ice and open water rescue. Rescue 4 carries water and ice rescue equipment and our boat is ready to launch within minutes weather permitting.
Accident Victim Extrication Training: Each member is trained extensively in this discipline. We carry extrication tools on Rescue 4, Ladder 1 and Engine 2 with Rescue 4 having the largest compliment of tools. Recently the department was able to purchase brand new TNT Rescue tools which will help make us even more effective when conducting this type of operation. We received new spreaders, two new cutters (one of which can cut boron and other new metals found in the doors and pillars of new cars), two new hydraulic rams, an electric power unit and a portable power unit. The new tools replaced our old tools on Rescue 4.
FAST/RIT: Firefighter Assist and Search Team or Rapid Intervention Team are on scene for firefighter safety. While their brothers and sisters are operating to save lives and property these teams stand by, ready to go into action should a brother or sister firefighter(s) become disoriented, lost, trapped or for any reason call a MAYDAY. We routinely respond to neighboring cities and towns to provide them with a FAST/RIT component for their incident.