Winter - CalFire - North

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zerg901

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This time of year, what is the typical staffing in a northern CalFire station?

http://www.fire.ca.gov/about/contacts/units.php?UID=26 - This URL shows that approx 8 CalFire stations are open in Mendocino County. Are they staffed by 1 person 24/7? 2 people? 3 people? Are they just staffed weekdays? What calls do they respond to? Car crashes - bld fires - EMS calls? How busy is their dispatch freq this time of year? Are they dispatched on the CDF freq or the County Fire freq?

Peter Sz
 
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zerg901

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CalFire has "3,800 permanent and 1400 seasonal employees" per their website. Therefore, staffing apparently declines by one third in the winter. If summer engine crews are 3 or 4 people - then possibly winter engine crews are 2 or 3 people. Since CalFire engines are equipped for fighting both structural and wildland fires, then much of rural California probably gets first response from CalFire during the summer AND winter. I dont know of any other state that has a state fire department like this - except possibly Nevada. Peter Sz
 

sffire

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Some CalFire Stations are seasonal. CalFire also staffs county paid stations. I am not sure what Mendocino County has this.
 

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CalFire has "3,800 permanent and 1400 seasonal employees" per their website. Therefore, staffing apparently declines by one third in the winter. If summer engine crews are 3 or 4 people - then possibly winter engine crews are 2 or 3 people. Since CalFire engines are equipped for fighting both structural and wildland fires, then much of rural California probably gets first response from CalFire during the summer AND winter. I dont know of any other state that has a state fire department like this - except possibly Nevada. Peter Sz
As far as I know the seasonal fire stations are called "Schedule B" stations and they close when the declared fire season has ended. Engines seem to be fully staffed during the winter near where I live.

Cal Fire is not really a "state fire department" as such. Cal Fire is heavily involved with county and local fire departments and districts providing services such as structural fire protection, dispatch, and EMS under contract and that may make them appear to be a state fire department. This is the case in 31 of California's 58 counties. It differs with the state forestry agencies of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada where I have lived and worked, where engines and stations are staffed during fire season only. I'm not familiar enough with other states to comment.

Remember also that the state has contracted with Marin, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, L.A., and Orange counties to provide protection of the SRA in those counties. So in those areas Cal Fire does not have a direct presence.
 
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ScannerDude244

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I notice they shut down a lot of stations here in south Monterey county they only staff the King city station in the winter. But like exsmokey said they have contracted with the county and staff full time county stations like Carmel hills and Pebble Beach.
 

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What calls do they respond to? Car crashes - bld fires - EMS calls?
In my area they respond to every kind of call that an urban fire department would respond to - all of the above.

How busy is their dispatch freq this time of year? Are they dispatched on the CDF freq or the County Fire freq?
That is totally dependent on the EXACT station and area they cover.
 

code3cowboy

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I notice they shut down a lot of stations here in south Monterey county they only staff the King city station in the winter. But like exsmokey said they have contracted with the county and staff full time county stations like Carmel hills and Pebble Beach.

Monterey county is somewhat unique, CDF covers the SRAs, USFS covers the federal areas, and the various fire districts serve where a county fire department would normally respond. Camp Roberts Fire responds up to Bradley in the winter time, Hunter Liggett Fire responds all over the place, South County Fire responds wherever/whenever they can, so forth and so on.

The ECC (in monterey) is staffed year round. Im not sure of the staffing of the heli base.
 

zerg901

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I did catch a CalFire daily lineup on the Mendocino County feed the other day. IIRC it was 9 AM PT. CalFire reported - 2 engines - 1 dozer - Copter (101?) - 8 crews - multi Battalion Chiefs (BC). I think that CalFire has a rule requiring at least 3 people on each Engine that goes to an emergency call. So if they have 6 people available to staff Engines, that means they just have 2 Engines in service.

I have heard several calls on the Mendocino County fire feed. I have not heard any CDF units responding on any of the calls - except a BC was talking about moving up 1 ambulance on 1 incident. It seems that the locals are handling 95% of the business in Mendocino County this time of year.

The CalStar 4 helo seems to fly alot, but they have a lot of problem with fog and clouds. Two different times I have heard extensive radio conversations about finding suitable LZs for CalStar 4.

Also - "Howard Forest" just tones out a call once - sometimes twice in a row if 2 repeater sites are used. There does not seem to be any "re-toning" done - even if it takes up to 5 minutes to roll a unit out of the station. Apparently the duty officer from the paged FD will always acknowledge the page as soon as it is transmitted. (ie - "Ukiah Valley Fire received (acknowledges) the call"). And then each individual fire vehicle will sign on the air as they leave the station. But they dont have a half dozen Chiefs signing on for each call. Therefore there is much less radio traffic per call than some of the FDs here in the Boston area.

Do I appreciate all the scanner feeds that are out there on the Internet? Damn straight!

Peter Sz
 

zerg901

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One thing that is very unique about CalFire is that the CalFire firefighters are required / expected to do structural firefighting as well as wildland firefighting. You can confirm that by looking at their employment info on their website. Possibly - Nevada State Forestry is the only other State Forest Fire Dept that does structural firefighting. (And the National Park Service also seems to have seasonal "wildfire" staff that do structural firefighting. If you look at Structural Firefighting at the Yosemite Natl Park website, it mostly talks about wildfires.)

I am assuming that all CalFire Type 3 Engines carry SCBA. Can anyone confirm that? (I dont think that they have any ground ladders - but otherwise - CalFire Type 3 engines are combined purpose structural / wildland engines).

Peter Sz
 

ScannerDude244

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One thing that is very unique about CalFire is that the CalFire firefighters are required / expected to do structural firefighting as well as wildland firefighting. You can confirm that by looking at their employment info on their website. Possibly - Nevada State Forestry is the only other State Forest Fire Dept that does structural firefighting. (And the National Park Service also seems to have seasonal "wildfire" staff that do structural firefighting. If you look at Structural Firefighting at the Yosemite Natl Park website, it mostly talks about wildfires.)

I am assuming that all CalFire Type 3 Engines carry SCBA. Can anyone confirm that? (I dont think that they have any ground ladders - but otherwise - CalFire Type 3 engines are combined purpose structural / wildland engines).

Peter Sz
I'm not sure they have SCBA on them, but I know around here they respond to everything in the type 3.

Here is list of all the CAL FIRE engines they use
CAL FIRE - Fire Engines

If you read all of them some type 3's are models are combined structural/wildland. I know KME makes hybrid type1/type3 that looks like a type 1 but has a wheel base of a type 3. My local department just got one and most of the OES engines are hybrid type1/type3 model's.
 
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zerg901

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Models 14 & 15 seem to be the predominate ones - about 180 of them on the road.

Peter sz
 

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I did catch a CalFire daily lineup on the Mendocino County feed the other day. IIRC it was 9 AM PT. CalFire reported - 2 engines - 1 dozer - Copter (101?) - 8 crews - multi Battalion Chiefs (BC).
HUU (Humboldt-Del Norte) in recent weeks has been reporting just one engine staffed, anywhere from 1 to 4 BCs, a Prevention Officer, one dozer, from 0 to 10 camp crews, and occasionally a helicopter available on the unit. Not sure where the staffed engine usually is, but Trinidad or Fortuna are likely suspects. Like MEU, the daily staffing and incident report is generally broadcast between 0900-1000, and it's in the scanlist on Humboldt County, California (CA) Live Police, Fire, and EMS Scanners on RadioReference.com

The USFS/CAL-FIRE Fortuna Interagency Command Center, Six Rivers National Forest - Fortuna Interagency Command Center (very slow loading archived page) dispatches state and Fed agencies noted on that page, and 30+ volunteer companies throughout the county year round. Except for Arcata FPD on 154.13R, they are almost all dispatched on County Fire Net, 154.07R. I'll have to pay attention to whether the initial dispatches regularly go out on HUU Local 151.25R as well. I don't believe they do in the off-season, unless there's likely to be some CAL-FIRE involvement.

Many of the volunteer companies tend, naturally, to be more talkative on the radio than the larger agencies and career firefighters, since most are infrequently called out and they simply don't get as much practice. Arcata FPD is mostly volunteer, but they're pretty busy and well-honed.

I believe only Eureka and Humboldt Fire Dist 1 on 154.37R, and Fortuna on 154.235 do their own dispatching... actually their respective PDs do it.
 
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cdlaubinger

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Zerg901,
Here in the Alpine, Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento Unit we "as for many other Units in the state" have what is called Amador Contracts. This is where 2 CAL FIRE Schedule B stations, where at least 1 engine is utilized, to provide additional fire response to local agencies for every call. Staffing is 2 per engine. As for additional non Amador Contract stations we have at least 1 engine staffed B engine "2 or 3 person" per day in El Dorado county which respond to any call as part of the closest rescourse basis. As far as SCBA's all CAL FIRE B engines have 3 or 4. Here in this unit all first outs have combination cutter spreader tools, as well as in certain battalions water rescue gear and air bags. You also mentioned ground ladders, model 14, and 15's have a two fly section 16 feet extension ladders on them and the new 34's are the same just that they extend to 20 feet in length. You also mentioned dispatch centers. CAL FIRE has Command Centers. This is described by how the personnel inside the Command Center are employees of CAL FIRE and that there are Captains inside that assume Command of every call until the first arriving unit takes command from them. Each CAL FIRE Unit is different on call volume and who they provide service to. In AEU " Camino" is the Command Center for Local Government, State, and Federal.
 

Duster

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I am assuming that all CalFire Type 3 Engines carry SCBA. Can anyone confirm that? (I dont think that they have any ground ladders - but otherwise - CalFire Type 3 engines are combined purpose structural / wildland engines).

Peter Sz
All CAL FIRE carry SCBA's by policy. They carry a minimum of three; some models will carry four.

All models of CAL FIRE engine also carry ground ladders. At minimum they carry a 16' or 24' extension ladder (some models of engine have pretty ingenious methods of carrying them), and CAL FIRE Models 14/15 have a specially-built three-fly 24' extension ladder that rides between the hosebeds, accessible from the rear of the engine. Most models will carry different or additional ladders depending upon storage space. I worked off a Model 17. We had a traditional 24' extension, a 14 ' roof, and a 10' attic.

Some of the older models were primarily wildland engines, but were equipped as well as possible for structure/interface work. All models from 14/15 and newer have some amount of structural capability engineered into the buildup. The new 34/35's are totally structure-capable, with the only limitation being the amount of water they carry. You're probably not going to be doing truck-level ventilation/rescue work off a CAL FIRE engine, but you can do almost any job with some proficiency.
 

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Cal Fire is not really a "state fire department" as such. Cal Fire is heavily involved with county and local fire departments and districts providing services such as structural fire protection, dispatch, and EMS under contract and that may make them appear to be a state fire department. This is the case in 31 of California's 58 counties. It differs with the state forestry agencies of Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada where I have lived and worked, where engines and stations are staffed during fire season only. I'm not familiar enough with other states to comment.

Remember also that the state has contracted with Marin, Kern, Santa Barbara, Ventura, L.A., and Orange counties to provide protection of the SRA in those counties. So in those areas Cal Fire does not have a direct presence.
With all due respect to my esteemed colleague (and friend) Smokey, CAL FIRE is in fact a state-level fire department. They maintain a presence statewide with the exceptions of the six contract counties Fred mentioned, and certain other counties with minimal SRA, such as Plumas and Sacramento. Every county in California is under the administrative umbrella of a CAL FIRE Unit, even the contract counties (for instance, LA is administratively under BDU, while Orange County is under RRU).

CAL FIRE is an "all-risk" fire department who equips and trains all fire suppression personnel in structural, industrial, and wildland firefighting techniques. Their academy in Ione is a fully accredited State Firefighter I academy, and includes a California POST-accredited peace officer academy.

While much of CAL FIRE's wildland resources demobilize after fire season like many other wildland fire agencies, they continue to maintain a very functional presence statewide during the winter months through Schedule A and Amador contracts (discussed elsewhere in this thread).

The department has made enormous strides from a couple decades ago when if it wasn't vegetation, they weren't interested. While almost all of their structural firefighting apparatus belong to agencies who they contract to, their wildland units also respond to all types of calls. Calls are not triaged based upon the available apparatus. For that reason, CAL FIRE has built a structural capability into its normal daily business practices. CAL FIRE is definitely not the old "Division of Forestry" that previous generations of firefighters were part of.
 
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zerg901

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Thanks to everyone for the replies.

In the long term, I will probably end up remembering this much : all CalFire engines are structural / wildfire capable - many of the northern CalFire pumpers are unstaffed in winter - the local VFDs basically handle all the work in the winter - in the summer, CalFire aids local FDs extensively on all-risk incidents

My only remaining major question regards work schedules. In the summer, are the engines staffed by people who work 48 hour shifts? Maybe they work 2 days on - 4 days off?

Peter Sz
 

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With all due respect to my esteemed colleague (and friend) Smokey, CAL FIRE is in fact a state-level fire department. They maintain a presence statewide with the exceptions of the six contract counties Fred mentioned, and certain other counties with minimal SRA, such as Plumas and Sacramento. Every county in California is under the administrative umbrella of a CAL FIRE Unit, even the contract counties (for instance, LA is administratively under BDU, while Orange County is under RRU).

CAL FIRE is an "all-risk" fire department who equips and trains all fire suppression personnel in structural, industrial, and wildland firefighting techniques. Their academy in Ione is a fully accredited State Firefighter I academy, and includes a California POST-accredited peace officer academy.


While much of CAL FIRE's wildland resources demobilize after fire season like many other wildland fire agencies, they continue to maintain a very functional presence statewide during the winter months through Schedule A and Amador contracts (discussed elsewhere in this thread).

The department has made enormous strides from a couple decades ago when if it wasn't vegetation, they weren't interested. While almost all of their structural firefighting apparatus belong to agencies who they contract to, their wildland units also respond to all types of calls. Calls are not triaged based upon the available apparatus. For that reason, CAL FIRE has built a structural capability into its normal daily business practices. CAL FIRE is definitely not the old "Division of Forestry" that previous generations of firefighters were part of.
Thanks for the kudos David. I did not intend to slight the training and responsibilities of CAL FIRE (still can't get used to that). What I wrote and what I meant differ so I will try to explain it another. Locally in Mono County, as far as I know, when private land is subdivided a fire protection district must be formed or provisions made to add it to an existing fire district. The only LRA without a fire district exists in remote areas that have a single owner or have some other criteria applied where the LRA is not protected.

In Inyo County, at least up to recently (last 20 years or so in my book!) some subdivisions have been made where there is not a local fire district. One of these is located north of Bishop about halfway between Bishop and the bottom of the Sherwin grade. It is called "Mustang Mesa." Since I've lived in the area (28 years) a lot of homes have been built there. The CDF Bishop Conservation Camp and fire station is located about 3-4 miles away. Residents there were telling their insurance companies that CDF was their fire department because they truly believed it. They assumed that if a parcel of land did not have a fire department that the state provided it. Some of the folks I spoke with who lived there were very surprised when I told them CDF was not going to roll to their home to put out interior fires unless it was determined that it had potential to move into the SRA. Some local CDF folks confirmed that.

Some folks in Mono County expected the same, however, the Forest Service provides wildland protection for private parcel SRA land in Mono County that is within the exterior boundaries of the Inyo and Toiyabe National Forests. As you know these are called "green book" lands. Outside the Forest boundaries in Mono County the BLM provides SRA protection in exchange for the CDF providing protection for all the BLM land in the Owens Valley. But the key here is that this is for wildland fire protection and prevention only, not structural. Thus there is a lot of land, especially in Inyo County, that does not have a fire district and has one or more structures on it. These lands are generally referred to as "no man's land" by local firefighting agencies. The old, large and historic Little Lake Hotel, which was located just off 395 in the southern end of Inyo County caught on fire some years ago. CDF and the BLM responded, but the Olancha and Lone Pine fire departments did not. When CDF and the BLM did not don SCBA's and make an interior attack the owner was pretty upset. It was quite windy and the threat to wildland was there so the responding units used exterior "defensive" tactics.

My understanding of many California counties that are not as remote and on the west side of the Sierra, is that very little, if any, no man's land exists there. The southern California and contract counties, Marin County being one in northern California as well, do not have any no man's land as the entire county is a fire district. There may be others as well.

My disagreement with CDF being called the state's fire department is based on the above. If you have a structure on land outside of a fire district the state is not there to provide you structural fire protection.

State law is rather specific in defining the location of and services to be provided on SRA land. This differs from the other states I've mentioned where the responsibility and land area is not defined as well, if at all. NDF has had some contracts along the Sierra Front near Reno to provide structural fire protection, but I think they have lost most or all of those. I was under the impression that CDF did not provide structural protection unless they provided such under a contract with with a local government entity. If they are defining some actions such as interior offensive tactics as necessary to prevent spread of a structural fire to the wildland SRA then they might be providing more service now than in the past.

I've picked up on some pressure by the southern California National Forests to define "threat to wildland" in a similar manner. Congress is quite aware of this, is quite wary of a trend starting and prohibited Forest Service engines to be equipped with SCBA's for many years. Since the USFS responds to vehicle fires within National Forest boundaries to protect wildland, Congress relented and allowed the USFS to purchase SCBA's. Some of the Type III BLM/USFS engines I've looked at have those SCBA seats common on structural rigs. I've seen some equipped with a ladder or two.

There is some pressure from local counties to have the USFS more geared up for EMS responses and structural firefighting in automatic mutual aid zones outside the Forest boundaries. There is some talk about the USFS providing a wider range of EMS service for vehicle accidents and other incidents at locations (resorts, camps, private land) inside Forest boundaries that are far from a county fire station or are no man's land. As far as I'm concerned the Angeles NF should provide everything L.A. County Fire is responsible for within the Forest boundary under a contract. The USFS stations are closer and given the right training and equipment service could be improved. I'm sure some local fire folks and politicians bristle at such talk and I know the USFS Washington Office goes into a tirade every time the southern California NF's want something new to meet their unique situations.

This is my understanding of the situation and I could be in error on portions of it. As well, some things could have changed since I retired.

Sorry for the long post. This is often a fuzzy area and I would like to hear the comments from other knowledgeable people on this website.
 
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SCPD

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Millville fire victim seeks change in firefighting procedures» Redding Record Searchlight

This article and comments might shed a little light on the subject. Peter Sz
Very interesting. Things are different on the west side of the hill. I don't think I've ever heard CDF responding to a structure fire in the Owens Valley for mutual aid structural fire protection or they may have mutual aid agreements similar to the one the Millville Fire District has with CDF. I will have to listen more carefully to future incidents with this in mind. I also have a long time acquaintance who is a retired CDF engine captain and if I run into him I will have to ask what CDF's role has been in relation to this issue.

It appears that the State of California has a different take on assisting local fire districts with structural fire protection than the federal government does. With that in mind I can see the point about considering CAL FIRE (there, now I got it right) the state's fire department.

As for the federal government the Congress is wired into this situation with the wildland fire agencies and do not want to see them be involved in structural protection. This makes them less than a fully involved mutual aid agency and that is where the rub is for some fire districts that surround National Forests or are located in areas where the land is predominately BLM administered. I seem to remember hearing this issue raised in Plumas or Lassen County, but I could be mistaken. I did talk with a LA County battalion chief who mentioned that they were somewhat dismayed that the Angeles NF was not a full mutual aid partner. That was on a fire north of Lake Hughes in 1996 so that could have or has changed in the interim.

This is drifting off the issue of this thread, but I wonder if military fire departments have mutual aid agreements where they respond off base. A good example of this situation would be if Vandenberg responds to fires in Lompoc.

Back to another earlier post about the fire department of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is an exclusive jurisdiction park so all fire protection, both wildland and structural, is the responsibility of the National Park Service. They have a structural fire "corps," "brigades" or "militia" made up of employees from all functions. A type of volunteer department if you will. They obviously have full time fire management personnel for wildland fire but in some parks this function also oversees structural protection but does not provide all the manpower for same. Sometimes the volunteers are primarily protection branch folks, i.e. law enforcement rangers. However, if you hadn't picked up on this already, the NPS has placed a lot of responsibilities on the protection branch, which in turn places a lot of expectations on each protection ranger. Think of it, they are supposed to be paramedics, search and rescue, law enforcement, and investigators all in one person. Then you expect them to add structural firefighting to the mix. Taking the training, then maintaining qualifications in all these areas is a challenge for protection positions. By the way protection is usually separate from fire management in large parks and is that way all the way up the line to the Washington Office.

I don't know if it is a condition of a special use permit for a concessionaire operation chosen for each park (almost all concessionaires are given a monopoly in a park) or if they just do it out of necessity, but concessionaires frequently have their own volunteer departments. This is interesting because technically and practically in cases of changes in concessionaire permit holders, the structures are the property of the federal government. If you poke around the mish mash of the Yosemite Village maintenance area you will find a concessionaire fire station.

I like these types of discussions because I don't listen to radio systems just to hear day to day and large incidents. I like to know what the roles and responsibilities of the agencies and private entities involved are and how the whole thing is organized. This interest had very important, necessary and practical applications for me in my career.

Thanks for everyone's thoughts and discussions about this. I'm learning a lot and need to be knowledgeable and up to date on it.
 

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Very interesting. Things are different on the west side of the hill. I don't think I've ever heard CDF responding to a structure fire in the Owens Valley for mutual aid structural fire protection or they may have mutual aid agreements similar to the one the Millville Fire District has with CDF. I will have to listen more carefully to future incidents with this in mind. I also have a long time acquaintance who is a retired CDF engine captain and if I run into him I will have to ask what CDF's role has been in relation to this issue.

It appears that the State of California has a different take on assisting local fire districts with structural fire protection than the federal government does. With that in mind I can see the point about considering CAL FIRE (there, now I got it right) the state's fire department.
This is actually more the norm now than the situation that Smokey is describing in Mono and Inyo Counties. In my unit we run active mutual aid, both by agreement and by CWN (Call When Needed) with almost every local government district in the unit. Now that Fred refreshed my memory, he is completely correct in the situation on his side of the Sierras. Due to the remoteness and high amount of federal land there, CAL FIRE and the federal fire agencies have done some unique swapping of responsibility over lands there. So in those areas, CAL FIRE does not maintain the role that they do on the west side of the hills. And, again, that responsibility varies from Unit to Unit, but the overwhelming push at an agency level is to take on that "state fire department" role. The department has realized that regardless of jurisdiction, often we are the closest fire engine. Mutual aid agreements like those mentioned in the Millvale article are becoming more and more common.
 
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