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Firefighters are persons who are trained and equipped to put out fires, rescue people and in some areas provide emergency medical services. The fire service, also known as the fire brigade or fire department in some countries, is one of the emergency services.

Firefighting is the process and profession of extinguishing fires. Firefighting is important in urban areas where firefighters are on constant standby; in wildland areas, and on board ship.

Table of contents
1 Fire-fighting Skills
2 History of fire brigades
3 National Information
4 Miscellanea

Fire-fighting Skills

Note: this mostly discusses urban firefighting. See bushfire for a discussion of forest fires.

Firefighting has several basic skills: prevention, self-preservation, rescue, preservation of property and fire control. All of these except prevention can be performed at the same time by a skilled fire-fighting team.


Prevention attempts to assure that no place simultaneously has heat, fuel and air. Most prevention programs prevent heat. Every building, including residences, should have sprinklers. No life has ever been lost to fire in a residence with sprinklers. With the small rooms typical of a residence, one or two sprinklers can cover most rooms. If this is not possible, then at least have smoke detectors and a fire-extinguisher.

Self Preservation

Never enter a burning building unless you are a trained firefighter equipped with self-contained breathing apparatus (or equivalent).

Self-preservation is critical. A dead fire-fighter is no good to anyone. The basic technique is to know where you are, and avoid hazards. Work in teams. Keep your basic tools with you. Always keep a route out, and preserve it by irrigation. Don't depend on failing structures. Try to understand where the fire is going: Usually up, following fuel and air. Never get above the fire. If you have breathing equipment, use it. Otherwise, stay low, out of the gases. Avoid fuel that can flash-over. When the search is over, or the exit is threatened, if the building can't be saved, get out.


Rescue consists of searching, and then removing people that are alive. Animals may also be recovered, if resources and conditions permit. Generally triage and first aid are performed outside. The general form of rescue is to shuffle through the structure with the right hand against the wall, or utilizing a tool. Many fire departments follow a two-in, two-out rule, and in a large room the second person would follow behind the first, usually on their immediate left. This is called a right hand search. There is also a left hand search, which is the same thing except the right and left are reversed. Remember to search beds and cupboards, and identify oneself to victims. Many children are very frightened of fire-fighters in breathing masks.

Rescue may also involve the extrication of victims of motor vehicle accidents. Here firefighters use spreaders, cutters, and rams, tools more commonly known as the Jaws of Life. More technical forms of rescue include subsets such as rope rescue, confined space rescue, and trench rescue. These types of rescue are often extremely hazardous and physically demanding.


Buildings that are made of fuel, such as frame buildings, are different from fire-proof buildings such as concrete high-rises. Generally, the fire in a fire-proof building can be limited to a floor. Other floors can be safe simply by preventing smoke inhalation and damage. A burnable building must be evacuated.

Property preservation is a great help to people. Most fires can be limited to burning only the upper part of a frame structure. If possible, turn off the gas, electricity and water, and during the search, tip all the movable property into the middle of a room, and cover it with a heavy cloth tarp. This reduces damage from water, smoke and burning embers. If the structure doesn't catch, it's very helpful to ventilate it to reduce smoke damage.

Fire Control

Fire control consists of depriving a fire of fuel, oxygen or heat. The standard way is to remove heat by spraying the burning solid fuels with water from a fire-hose. Some fuels float on water, and are actually spread by water (such as gasoline). Some departments can use chemical dust even on large fires. These are preferable because the property damage can be so much less than with water. Petroleum fires are more often smothered with foam. In electrical fires, the crucial thing is to turn off the electricity.

Most fires spread as hot gases move through the structure. Some fires can be controlled or limited by venting these gases to the outside. This can aggravate a fire if it introduces new oxygen, or permits a draft past fuel or structure, so it should be attempted only by veteran fire fighters.

Firefighters are constantly training and updating their skills on equipment. Some of their tools include extrication equipment, ladder trucks, tanker trucks, pumper trucks, and ambulances.

History of fire brigades

to be written

National Information


Reflecting the rural nature of much of the country, the Volunteer Fire brigade (SPV), with over 190,000 firefighters is the largest firefighting force in France. In addition to being called out from work to attend an incident, they may be on standby at firestations outside their working hours. The Professional Fire Brigade (SPP) numbers over 30,000 firefighters, employed by the
départements and working on shifts. In some towns there is a mixture of professionals and volunteers, in others only one or the other.

In Paris and Marseille, the fire brigades are made up of military personnel, but under the control of the Ministry of the Interior in a similar way to the Gendarmes. The Paris brigade (BSPP) has around 7 000 firefighters, and the BMPM in Marseille has over 2000.

French firefighters tackle over 3.6 million incidents each year: 10% fires, 10% traffic accidents, 59% other help to people, 21% other incidents (gas escapes, stuck elevators, etc).


In popular literature, firefighters are usually depicted with Dalmatian dogs.

See also