Our network

Photo Gallery | Smiles with SacCity Fire Fighters

Sacramento, CA -- Fire Fighters at the Sacramento City "Downtown" Fire Station pause during their busy day to smile with News10.net viewers!  

Fire Department leaders addressed members of the 2013 Sacramento City Management Academy at the downtown fire station, explaining functions of the Urban Search And Rescue Team (USART), Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Team, along with teams specializing in water rescue, high and low rescue (skyscrapers and canyons) and emergency lifesaving expertise.

Ray Jones, Fire Chief, says, "Sacramento is a very busy fire department -- our call volume is often the highest in the state!  We're fortunate to have on call 24 active fire stations with 43 pieces of equipment, including 13 ambulances and four boats.

"During peak hours, we add more ambulances," he points out.

Although Sacramento is only 146 square miles, Chief Jones says there's a high demand for fire department services.  Specialty services, such as HAZMAT response teams, are in high demand because of their national reputation for high-quality services due to their training and equipment.

"Sacramento Fire Department is ahead of the curve," explains Chief Jones, "because we began training back in the 1970s to meet the demands for specialty emergency services.  Between 65-70% of our emergency calls are for heart attacks, strokes and rescues from automobile accidents.

"Our call volume is up every year!  We need to add equipment and staff to keep up with demand for our services. But it's difficult in this economy," he says.

"Our people do a wonderful, fantastic job of protecting our citizens because zero fire fatalities is our goal.

"Fire prevention is key," according to Chief Jones.  

Sacramento's fire department has Marshals who enforce fire and safety codes by inspecting businesses undergoing remodeling for compliance to help prevent fires, as well as preventing car and home accidents.  

"Prevention of emergency situations is important to everyone's safety," says Chief Jones.

"Sacramento's Fire Department has a top-notch rescue system of special operations," he continues, "that's also a federal-level asset.  We have more than 200 'Special Ops' team members trained for urban search and rescue, boat rescue, heavy rescue...

"Our Special Ops teams have been a feather in our cap for the past 20 years!  We make sure Sacramento citizens are safe on a day-to-day basis.

"We don't take safety for granted," comments Chief Jones.  "Our training bureaus routinely hold in-service training for all fire fighters and extensive training for new hires."

Lloyd Ogan, Deputy Chief of Operations, explains that Sacramento's Fire Department has three 48-hour shifts -- known as A, B, and C -- split among the approximate 600 fire fighters and emergency rescue teams protecting 525,000 citizens.  

"We're a busy company in the city -- there's not a lot of down time!"

Deputy Chief Ogan says that each "Emergency Medical Services" call takes about 45 minutes to mitigate, or resolve.  Each "fire" call usually takes almost three hours to mitigate.

"That's why we have so many people on duty at all times," he adds. 

When the fire department gets a "house fire" call, according to Deputy Chief Ogan, responding are four fire engines, two fire trucks, one battalion chief and one ambulance.

"We operate on the 'two in and two out' safety network when fire fighters enter a building.  For every two inside, we have two outside ready to relieve them," he says, adding "All functions are in place in nine minutes or less 90% of the time when we arrive on scene for a fire!"

When the fire department responds to a "medical aid" call, a fire engine is sent along with the ambulance because fire engines are often closer to where aid is needed and may arrive quicker.

"When advance life support is needed, it's very effective to send fire engines and paramedics on each medical aid call.  All fire fighters and EMTs know CPR," states Deputy Chief Ogan.

Since Sacramento is the intersection of two major rivers, he says the Fire Department has four rescue boats on staff with one extra boat available.  Even though Sacramento has about 525,000 residents, he emphasizes there are four major freeways that intersect here, as well as state and federal government offices along with thousands of private enterprises all doing business.

"At any given time from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., a million people transgress city limits on an everyday basis," he estimates.  

Additionally, Sacramento's Fire Department participates in the Emergency Service Demand and Delivery network with neighboring jurisdictions that's an agreement where the closest emergency unit responds regardless of boundaries.

"It's seamless," says Deputy Chief Ogan, adding, "It's a model for national cooperation that other jurisdictions may use, but now it's unique to Sacramento.  We're very proud of the cooperation we built.

"If it's an emergency, we're going to respond!"

Joseph Jackson, Deputy Chief, says the Search and Rescue teams are recognized nationally for their expertise and often travel to disaster areas assisting local governments.  He said teams went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Haiti after the earthquake, New York City after 911 and, most recently, to the East Coast after Super-storm Sandy.  Sacramento teams also assist with fighting California wildfires.

Ron Potter, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Officer, says, "We run our wheels off... last year we answered 50,000 EMS calls, made 44,000 patient contacts and transported 36,000 of them to hospitals.  We're on the cutting edge with our integrated Advance Life Support (ALS) system that's top of the line in EMS.  

"By June, we will transmit live data to hospitals from our monitors hooked up to patients.  Our fire engines have the same equipment as ambulances.  It's all hands on deck at an emergency scene -- even if the Captain has to drive the ambulance -- all personnel are cross-trained in CPR, water rescue, HAZMAT and such."

Michael Bartley, Assistant Chief, says, "We think outside the box to bring our best services to Sacramento by preventing fires through inspecting businesses and enforcing fire codes and city ordinances to protect the public.  We also inspect for dangerous chemicals.  Our arson investigators are fire fighters who pass a test, become licensed and carry firearms.

"We work closely with the police to find the pattern of an arsonist," Fire Marshal Bartley explains, adding, "who starts small and then escalates.  We must stop an arsonist before the escalation!"

Other problems in Sacramento, according to Fire Marshal Bartley, are night clubs that permit over-crowding of patrons without adequate exits from the building. 

"Over-crowded night clubs combine young people with alcohol -- a situation we take very, very seriously!"

Chris Costamagna, Assistant Chief of Special Operations, proudly states, "Not many fire departments have 200 specially-trained fire fighters on duty 365 days a year.  We also have canines trained in search and rescue on every shift.

"We also inspect construction 'tower' cranes to be sure we can respond if there's an emergency.  If there is, we have a specialty unit trained to get people off high buildings.

"Special Ops can mitigate HAZMAT calls very fast to protect public property, as well as stop and mitigate problems on private property."

"We extended our Special Ops rescue teams here in California after earthquakes, especially the one in Northridge.  In 1997, a federal grant organized 28 Search and Rescue teams across the nation.  The Sacramento Fire Department is one of nine teams in the Western Region. 

"When Special Ops teams leave town to assist with a national disaster, two-thirds of our teams remain in Sacramento," Officer Costamagna points out.  

Even during Sacramento's tight economic budget, the Fire Department maintains top quality services to all residents while assisting others facing catastrophic disasters.  They are truly the Best in the West. 

Note to Fire Fighters:  If I goof up your names and faces, please call me with corrections!  Seriously... I can't read my own handwritten notes!