Marin Fire Engines Don't Have Enough Firefighters

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and National Institute of Standards and Teschnolgy (NIST) state that for safety efficiency, all fire engines should be staffed with a minimum of four firefighters.  In fact, a basic safety requirement is that no firefighters may enter a burning building unless four firefighters are "on-scene," the so-called "two-in, two-out" rule.

Odds are, the closest fire engine to your home in Marin right now has only two firefighters, and at most three.  In many emergencies, this is simply not enough to rescue your family or quickly extinguish a fire...

The national standard, set by the NFPA for public safety, is a minimum of FOUR firefighters.  In Marin, many fire engines have only two firefighters.  Of the 35 fire engines on duty daily in Marin, not one meets the NFPA minimum of four firefighters, and only a handful even have three firefighters at any given time.  Although Marin firefighters are highly trained and extremely capable, a fire engine with only two firefighters is measurably less effective that the three person standard that is considered the absolute minimum in most of the US.  Too few firefighters places the public and firefighters at risk by increasing response times and reducing firefighter's ability to rescue, fight fires, and save lives.

Every day when firefighters respond to emergencies in Marin, they and the public face an unnecessary risk due to inadequate staffing. While firefighters and the fire service in general understand the complex budgetary issues facing local government during an economic crisis, the current staffing levels are historical, and carry over from times when cities and districts were much more financially stable.

NIST Federal Study Shows Effects of Crew Size on Fire Fighting Operations

How Many Firefighters Does it Take to Fight a Fire?
A landmark study released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2010 shows that the size of fire fighting crews has a substantial effect on the fire service's ability to protect lives and property in residential fires. Click here to read the news release.
Conducted by a broad coalition in the scientific, fire fighting and public safety communities, the study results found that four-person fire fighting crews were able to complete 22 essential fire fighting and rescue tasks in a typical residential structure 30 percent faster than two-person crews and 25 percent faster than three-person crews.
The report is the first to quantify the effects of crew sizes and arrival times on the fire service's lifesaving and fire fighting operations.
This and other scientific data in the report will help educate public officials, fire chiefs and other decision-makers on the importance of adequate staffing and deployment with respect to fire fighter and public safety.
Study investigators from NIST and the IAFF announced the results of the study at a press conference at the Hilton Washington in Washington, DC, before the start of the annual Congressional Fire Services Institute meeting of top fire safety officials from the across the nation.
Click here for the full report.
The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters grant program.
Read General President Harold Schaitberger's blog, "Fire Fighter Staffing and Deployment Study Released"
For more information, contact Lori Moore-Merrell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 824-1594.

Three-Person Staffing Stymies Firefighters

In Marin, your elected politicians choose to save money by sending only firefighters when your life is in danger - a dangerous and ineffective cost-cutting measure.  A two-person fire engine (known to firefighters as a "company") is measurably less effective and less safe than a fire engine with three - or the national standard of FOUR - firefighters.  During a fire, a second fire engine is required in order to begin interior firefighting operations in order to meet "NFPA 1710" standards.

Even during routine medical calls, it often requires a second fire engine just to perform basic medical care like CPR or carrying a victim down sairs.  When Marin firefighters explain to their colleagues in other counties that they only have two firefighters per engine, the other firefighters typically react with shock.  While many locales have struggled with the economic decision to reduce fire engine staffing to three firefighters, in Marin we continue to work with just two.

Marin firefighters are highly trained, professional and aggressive. They accomplish tremendous feats through training, resourcefulness and ingenuity.  It's just a matter of time before that's not enough.

Here's an example:

May 19, 2009.  SAN BERNARDINO - Firefighters and a woman who nearly lost her son in a house fire last week say significant damage could have been prevented if the first crew had been allowed go inside immediately and douse the flames.  Recent budget cuts have reduced nine of the city's 12 fire stations to three-man crews, which means firefighters must wait for a second engine before they can set foot inside a burning structure.

And another example showing what proper staffing can accomplish.

More Research and Information on Firefighter Staffing