Breaking Down The Various Disciplines Of Firefighting

Breaking Down The Various Disciplines Of Firefighting

Thursday, 14 March 2024 16:24

The two million fire calls that American fire departments respond to yearly represent the highest figures in the industrialized world. Each year, thousands of people die, tens of thousands of people are injured, and property damage reaches billions of dollars. Indirect costs, such as temporary lodging expenses, lost time at work, medical expenses, and psychological damages, are equally high.

According to American Red Cross statistics, the annual losses from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters combined in the United States average just a fraction of those from fires. 

It takes a sophisticated and well-trained cadre of paid and volunteer professional firefighters to handle this country's growing number of fire calls. The firefighting profession in the United States is a complex and multi-layered organization that reflects the diversity of the hazards and types of fires encountered.

Many different firefighting disciplines are represented within the overall firefighting profession; however, this article will discuss a breakdown of different jobs and classifications for the two broad categories according to the Incident Command System: Structural Firefighters and Wildland Firefighters.

Various Disciplines Of Firefighting Within The Incident Command System

Structural Firefighting and Wildland Firefighting are two sides of the same coin. Both organizations utilize the Incident Command System within their unique worlds. In the case of the growing Wildland Urban interface, each is required to cross over into the other zone at times.

Although the level of training in both categories is intense, they each have specialized training within their discipline, with some cross-over training into the other. Municipal fire departments are almost exclusively structural, and remote Forest Service units are almost exclusively wildland. However, most in each category are within the interface and must be able to function in each.

Breakdown Of The Different Disciplines Within ICS

The Incident Command System is a standardized approach to incident management used by wildland and structural agencies to handle emergencies tailored to their specific organizations and needs. The system accomplishes the following:

  • It is used for all kinds of incidents by all types of organizations and at all levels of government; ICS is applicable to small incidents as well as large and complex ones.
  • It can be used not only in emergencies but also in planned events
  • Enables a coordinated response among agencies
  • Establishes common processes for planning and resource management
  • Allows for integration of resources across different firefighting disciplines

There are five major sections within the Incident Command System: Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance. Whether your organization is a large municipal fire department or a rural volunteer department, many individual jobs fall under one of the five ICS sections.

The various firefighting disciplines include jobs such as firefighter, engine officer, helicopter manager, fire investigator, battalion chief, department chief, division supervisor, information officer, and medic, to name just a few. 

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group identifies one hundred and thirty positions within the Incident Command System. Although geared toward the wildland fire spectrum, many of the positions identified are also found in structural departments; however, they sometimes have a different name.

Examples Of Firefighting Disciplines Within ICS

To show the complexity of the firefighting organization in both wildland and structural agencies, here are just a few positions found within the five ICS sections utilized by firefighting organizations. The job positions are qualifications that an individual can receive through training classes and fire assignments in addition to their day-to-day job.

For example, an  Engine Officer on a structural unit can be trained in many different job classifications and functions in ICS at different levels depending on the needs of the emergency and the level of the Engine Officer’s qualifications. This multilayer of training and experience helps to strengthen a department's overall effectiveness and safety.

By developing different disciplines within an individual position, a department is better able to handle the many diverse emergencies because there are layers of training and experience throughout the organization. 

Command and General Staff:

  • Type 1-5 Incident Commander
  • Safety Officer
  • Public Information Officer
  • Fire Investigator

Operations section:

  • Operations Section Chief
  • Helicopter Manager/Base Manager
  • Engine Officer
  • Firefighter Type 1-2
  • Crew Boss
  • Engine Battalion Chief
  • Structure Protection Specialist

Planning Section:

  • Fire Behavior Analyst
  • GIS Mapping Technician
  • Planning Section Chief
  • Infrared interpreter

Logistics Section:

  • Medical Unit Leader (medic)
  • Supply Unit Leader
  • Radio/Dispatcher
  • Security Manager

Finance Section:

  • Incident Contract Inspector
  • Finance/payroll
  • Time Unit Leader

This is only a small list of the many active firefighting disciplines at any given time during normal operations or on long-term incidents. Firefighting is a very complex profession requiring many different specialized disciplines within the organization to handle the many complex emergencies that happen daily in this country.

StreetWise® Provides Software Utilized By All Firefighting Disciplines

StreetWise offers software to assist wildland and structural fire organizations across various disciplines. The software can be utilized by an Engine Officer on an initial attack call, a Plans Section Chief or Mapping Technician to review pre-incident planning maps developed by firefighters beforehand on larger incidents, or by a Structural Protection Specialist to locate fire hydrants before they are needed.

With an all-in-one system like StreetWise, you can be confident that your department’s response will improve. For first responders, every single second matters. You need every advantage to save time.  Our software improves life-saving situational awareness that can save the lives of your firefighters and those you are helping. 

StreetWise is a public safety information services company in Lake Norman, North Carolina. Its elite group of progressive, like-minded investors, managers, technical developers, and advisors forms the parent company, Hangar 14 Solutions, LLC.

Their close and ongoing career experience with public safety led to the development of this project concept. Hangar 14 Solutions has identified the gap in getting critical response information into the hands of emergency personnel.

StreetWise software offers features and products firefighters say have been game changers in doing their jobs safely and efficiently. If you are ready to bring an all-in-one software solution to your department, we are here to help. Contact the team at StreetWise for more information about how our software can take your department’s response to the next level.