Fact Checked by Matt. H. Firefighter/Paramedic
When you think of Firefighters, you typically see the lights and sirens, the water hoses, and the community calendars. But while Firefighters do a lot for the people they serve, and they do respond to 911 calls, there’s also the hidden world of work that goes on after the calls have been handled.
Below, we’ll talk about most of the things that Firefighters will do after the Fire is out (if there is a fire, since many fire alarms are false alarms). While it varies based on area, there’s many common things that you’ll see Firefighters doing before they load up the truck and head back to the station.
While this post is after the Fire is out, you can learn about what Firefighters do during the Fire (and leading up to the call) in this post.
What’s the most important thing a Firefighter will do after the Fire is out?
There’s two very important things that a Firefighter does after the Main Fire is out. The first, is that they will check for Hot Spots (Re-ignition Points) and secure the area to make sure that everyone is accounted for and that any further damage can be minimized.
The next very important thing is Decon, or Decontamiation, for the Firefighters. We know that exposure to the Toxic Air and particles that land on the skin can lead to Cancer after repeated exposure. Since Firefighters are exposed often, they have to have a thorough Decon process of their skin both at the Fire and at the Station. In addition to Decon for the Equipment and the Trucks.
Here’s a list of common things that Firefighters will do after the Fire is Out.
They Spend time checking for ‘Hot Spots’
Even after the flames have been extinguished, there may still be hot spots that could reignite the fire. Firefighters use thermal imaging cameras to scan the area for hot spots and extinguish them with water or foam.
Firefighters preform Ventilation and Fire Suppression, plus other Fire Related skills like Search and Rescue, House and Vehicle Extractions, and Scene Management (to name a few) when answering the Call. If you are looking to Thank a Firefighter, here’s 10 suggested ways to Thank First Responders.
Firefighters Secure the Scene
Once the fire is out and all hot spots have been extinguished, firefighters will secure the scene to prevent unauthorized access. This may involve setting up barricades, posting guards, or closing roads.
Sometimes this happens will the Fire is active, and depends on the amount of Fire Personal, the Type of Fire, and where the Building is located. Police may get involved if it’s necessary to remove bystanders or redirect traffic.
But after the Fire is out, Firefighters don’t want people to get injured by exploring the damage. They secure the scene so that Insurance, Clean-Up Crews, and the Property Owner can safely manage the damage.
Start the Cleanup Process
Once the scene is secure and the victims have been moved to another location, firefighters will begin the cleanup process. This may involve removing debris, collecting fire hose and tools, lock out utilities, and restoring doors/windows where possible.
Firefighters will not remove too much debris, typically that is what a cleanup crew is for. But they will remove or move items that could be dangerous, and clear road ways.
Equipment will be collected, which may include very heavy and waterlogged hose, tools used for entry, rescue, or checking hot spots, and of course, their fire trucks.
Most of the time, the Utilites are shut off when the Firefighters first get on the scene (as long as they have enough man power, and can safely access them). Afterwards, they will ‘lock’ them, to prevent anything from turning on, or any civilians from accessing them (which can cause major damage if done incorrectly).
Lastly, if it’s available, Firefighters like to leave homes secured. If doors were removed, and can be ‘attached’ again, they will try to do that. This is very dependant on the department and how much damage was caused.
Decon the Equipment, Truck and Themselves.
This is an involved process that can’t be easily summed up in a few paragraphs. It’s involved because Firefighters have been exposed to carcinogens, and then those carcinogens contaminate everything (from their clothing and hair, to equipment, to fire trucks, to the bedding, personal vehicles, and home where their family and friends gather).
We know that the Carcinogens that Firefighters are exposed to lead to a 10 to 14x higher risk of developing certain types of Cancer.
Decon may look like a full shower on scene, or lots of wipes and changing gear (and having that gear cleaned with backup gear at the station for them to use that isn’t contaminated).
It could also look like a Full Clean of the Truck and Air Locks at the Station, to prevent the Carcinogens from contaimating the common areas (And then getting carried back to personal homes).
Decon will differ by Department and State- but everyone agrees that it’s the most important thing that Firefighters can do after running a Fire Call.
Firefighters will file reports about the fire, including the cause, the extent of the damage, and the actions taken by the firefighters.
Pretty cut and dry, but paperwork is important in the Fire Service for Insurance and in case of Suspected Arson or Faulty Equipment.
Investigate the possible cause of the Fire
In some cases, Firefighters will investigate the cause of the fire. This may involve interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, or performing tests.
For the most part, this is done by a Fire Investigator, Fire Marshal or other Fire Officials. It’s not something that regular Firefighters traditionally do, though they may help provide evidence or details to the Officials.
Do Firefighters provide assistance to Victims of the Fire?
Humans are always the priority in a fire situation, and they will be tended to during the fire suppression efforts (as long as it is safe to do so). Firefighters will remove victims from the general vicinity, and begin care immediately based on their licensing. They will not wait for the fire to be put out before caring for victims.
After the fire, Appropiate disaster relief organizations like red cross will be contacted.
Firefighters do a lot of important work after the fire is out. They work to ensure the safety of the public, to protect property, and to investigate the cause of the fire.