One of the unique parts of our trip was visiting a Chicago fire house. So yeah, it’s a fire house, not a station like I’m used to referring to. The tour was provided courtesy of Henry Mendoza who happens to be the brother of one of Jen’s co-workers. During our visit, a call came in requiring an ambulance and the fire engine to leave the house.
- This fire house was used by the “Chicago Fire” actors to train before filming began.
- A fire engine is not the same as a fire truck. An engine pumps the water while a fire truck has the ladders. The fire engine we saw can carry around 5,000 gallons of water which can run out pretty quick.
- In the fire house that we toured, there was a specialty unit of divers. The truck had a space to get dressed in wet suits so that upon arrival, the divers would only need a few minutes to get their tanks on before jumping into an often cold Lake Michigan or Chicago River. They are quite busy in the summer with flipped kayaks and boating accidents.
- Firemen still slide down fire poles.
- This fire house was equipped with a gym, sauna, and racquetball/basketball court. After all, the 21 people who work in 24 hour shifts, can have some downtime.
- This fire house also had a communication command center. This is used primarily during fires in high rises in which it becomes difficult for firemen to communicate with 911. The command center acts as an intermediary ensuring that everyone is getting the right messages.
- Unfortunately, no discussion of high-rise fires ignores 9/11. 9/11 changed the way that first responders communicate. During 9/11 everyone was using different frequencies so that police didn’t know what firemen were doing and vice versa. Now, there’s a system in place to ensure that all responders are on the same page. The communication command center is vital to that purpose.
- Also, firemen are now equipped to respond to a chemical attack. Something that firemen weren’t necessarily trained for prior to 9/11.
- Interestingly, when the call came, the 911 dispatcher announced what units were needed. Apparently 911 dispatchers gather information to tell the station that the ambulance and fire truck were needed. The ambulance is always out first and the truck about a minute behind.
- Jen timed them to see how long it took. A few seconds for the ambulance to leave, and around a minute for the truck to follow.
- To become a Chicago fireman, one has to pass a physical test. After that there are no mandatory physical tests which surprised me due to the physical nature of the job. However, the City of Chicago does provide financial incentives for firemen to pass certain physical tests (a certain number sit-ups, pull ups, etc.).
Jen tests out the weight of the hoses that have to be carried into skyscrapers.