The department responds to any part of the City to suppress uncontrolled fire using current strategies and tactics, applied by personnel with the appropriate equipment and training.
Structures with an alarm system receive a single engine response, or Still Alarm, based upon risk analysis that an active fire should still be in its early stage and controllable by the resources allocated. In West Lebanon and the Mascoma area, a call engine will respond if available. As there is no guarantee of that response, the on-duty force responds also.
The department historically, since the mid-1800s, has stressed the importance of early warning devices. The sooner the fire department is notified the easier it will be to extinguish the fire. Today hundreds of fire alarm systems provide early notification. The downside is that alarm systems are mechanical devices. As an example, alarm systems can not tell the difference between over cooked food and a building fire.
Response to fire calls vary with the type of notification received and predetermined levels of response called alarms. Until trained personnel arrive on the scene and confirm or refute the existence of an emergency, one exists.
Verbal reports of conditions other than active fires, but with fire potential receive a single engine response or Still Alarm, as noted above.
The response to any reports of uncontrolled fire, or upon receipt of orders from the officer-in-charge of the response (Incident Commander or IC) a First Alarm is called. A first alarm is a predetermined response for the City which brings most of the department's resources to the scene, while still providing fire coverage to the rest of the City.
Large, long duration, high threat or lack of City resources brings responses from outside the City, in a predetermined manner. These are called greater alarm fires. The department maintains predetermined responses through 5 Alarms.
The necessity for a fire response is predicated upon the level of response required and the tools needed for the particular area of the City and its fire threat.
A still alarm brings a pumper that has manual ladders, hose, a large pump, and water. The primary function is to place firefighters inside the building at the scene of the fire with water as quickly as possible for extinguishment and/or rescue of occupants. Most companies operate in teams of three or four, arriving on or with a single apparatus. As an example, it takes a minimum of three people to get an inch and three quarter hose line in service into a building. One person is needed to run the pump, one person needed at the nozzle to apply water, and one person needed to back up the nozzle person and advance hose through the building. To perform an inside search and rescue it takes a minimum of five people, three for a hose line to protect the searchers, and two to work together to search the building. Many times all of the tasks that are being executed are inside the burning structure with zero visibility.
As the size of the fire grows exponentially, so does the need for trained firefighters. As an example, it takes three firefighters to place a hose line into operation.
Ladder trucks and their firefighters provide roof access, heavy streams of water for large fires, forcible entry, and ventilation operations.
Rescue provides shelter, specialty equipment such as gas detectors and a formal command post for the IC.
Cars are used to transport materials and supplies to and from the scene, personnel where the large units cannot go, and retrieve equipment after an emergency.
The importance of water in suppression activities:
It takes water to extinguish the fires and many times it takes a large amount of it. If there is enough water applied to absorb the super heat created by the fire, the fire will be extinguished. A rule of thumb for a single family home with no other buildings around it is that it will require 500 gallons per minute to extinguish the fire. Larger buildings will require 1000 or more gallons per minute. If the building has fire protection built in it, such as sprinkler systems, then the amount of water needed is greatly reduced. The fire department provides this water either through hose lines connected to hydrants or tankers to haul the water to the emergency.