5 Alarm Fire….you’ve heard it on the news, but what does it mean? The simple answer…the status indicates the level of response required by local authorities.  Every degree alarm requires a different number of response units, which can be any type of vehicle including fire engines, ladder trucks and supervisor trucks. Fire companies send a different number of response units for each degree alarm, depending on the city you are in.  The more vehicles and firefighters responding, the higher the alarm designation. #5alarmisserious

fire alarm ringing bell  First responders on the scene of a fire are the best to assess the situation’s severity. They communicate the size and intensity of the blaze to dispatchers and raise the degree of the fire alarm as necessary, i.e. two alarm fire, three alarm fire. Each time the degree moves up, additional units are dispatched to the scene of the fire both to relieve units and to add support to firefighting efforts.

Example: A 2-Alarm fire would require 5 engine companies, 2 ladder companies, 2 battalion chiefs, 1 satellite unit, recuperation and care (R.A.C.) unit, tactical support unit, & 1 field communications unit Whereas the severity of a 5-alarm fire would require an additional 4 engine companies, 2 ladder companies, 1 assistant chief, and a Chief of operations.

It is not a matter of how many firehouses respond to a fire, as popularly believed, but rather, how many companies/units and how many firefighters are operating on scene.

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