The Age Old Question,from Boston Fire Gear

Let's see what caliber of responses we get from 'thinking firemen'.

Boston Fire Gear is asking which do you prefer…

We're looking for the type of responses consistent with our posts and readers. Not the juvenile kind ("Truck, because Mongo likes to break things.") but the smart kind. We know that many of you are not specifcally assigned to a certain piece; you take what is due, or left once you get up to the station.

What company-level work do you prefer, and why?

Does your decision have anything to do with the following:
Department characteristics
Company workload (define "busy" please)
Any other reasons you might feel are vaild.

Try not to go with your gut or what you 'like' but answer with what you know. Later on Dave, Ron and I will chip in our own choices as well.

When your done, be sure to check out Boston Fire Gear's apparel as well. Their latest design helps support the Boston Fire Gaelic Bridge. Quality shirts, I'm wearing my "Huntington Avenue Express" at the moment.


Enjoy this 1983 video from 'FourDeuce' of Havre Street, nine alarms at work.


Bill Carey is the daily news and blog manager for Elsevier Public Safety (FireRescue Magazine/Firefighter Nation, JEMS and LawOfficer sites.) Bill also manages the network and is a former volunteer lieutenant with the Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince George's County, Maryland.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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  • Joe says:

    I like being on the engine. Its where I'm assigned now, and have been for the extreme majority of my short career (excluding details and the rookie bounce around).   The engine is general busier, going on more of the service type calls can prove interesting. I think it gives me the chance to learn the job of the modern urban firefighter. That is the catch all problem solver, isolating problems in electrical, natural gas, water,  and any other problems people call us for. Its fun to solve problems, and learning. I also enjoy doing EMS, that is the calls where we can make a difference. The frequent flyers I could leave, but that seems to be the price of working somewhere that gets a good deal of fire. My company is in a poor neighborhood with a heavy prostitute and addict population. We see some very interesting characters that makes work fun. They are also a lot easier to deal with than the upper and middle class folk that see us as lazy public employees.
    I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but the tip for a fire. Its just cool and exciting. The heat, the sounds, the sights, it's just very interesting.  I'll take the times humping line or making a plug waiting for that tip fire.  Its also a thinking man's game to pick the best stretch and to rapidly and efficently get it in place and flowing.  Don't get me wrong, opening the roof and doing truck work is fun, but for me being the tipman on a good fire is better.
    Someday I'd like to work on the truck so that I could become a well rounded fireman, but for now I'll stay on the engine. The variety of runs and their job at fires is what interests me.

    • Bill Carey says:

      Thanks Joe. Good points on the service experience and without being “against” truck work. It’s also good to note the opportunity to becvome a “well rounded fireman.”

      Bill Carey

  • David says:

    I fully believe that there is no generic answer or solution.  You have to be versed enough in your area, your department, and the capabilities of yourself and your peers.  Decisions then evolve from knowing what you have at hand and can do well.  We constantly preach that no two fires are ever alike, so why should we in turn, preach a standard set of answers.  We do a good job of teaching someone HOW to do something, we need to up our game on teaching WHY and WHEN we do something.   As far as "busy", that is a pretty fluid word.  I feel there is no good baseline to define that to.  The more calls ran, there should be a gain of knowledge or decison making.   Unfortunately that relates back to your roll at those calls.  Going to fires, good training, learning to think, learning to adapt, and understanding that there is rarely a solid answer, just poor, good, and best choices.   Finally, coming to realize that he who rattles his saber the most, probably can't fight with it very well. 

  • In Boston, unless you're the first or second due engine the opportunity to do any real work is minimal. 
    From SOP #66: Engine Company Operations
    "At most incidents, the first line of hose shall be advanced to the front of the fire building or
    the emergency condition. Initial attack efforts shall be directed toward supporting primary
    search and rescue operations.
    The first arriving engine company shall immediately advance a hand line to the fire. The
    size of the hand line shall be determined by the officer in charge. The second arriving
    Engine Company shall advance a line to protect egress paths. If the first hand line is a
    1¾" line, and heavy fire still exists, it shall be backed up by a 2½" hand line. If a 2½" hand
    line was started, it shall be backed up by another 2½" hand line."
    We're fortunate because we've got substantial manpower.  On any reported building fire our minimum response is: 3 engines, 2 ladders, 1 rescue, 1 district chief and 1 RIT engine, which is approximately 30 firefighters.  As a result the being on an engine company on a second alarm or greater usually (but not always) means relief of first-due companies, exterior streams, etc. 
    On an alarm the trucks usually get a shot at something whether it be opening up, ventilation, primary/secondary, etc. 
    Just my two cents.

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