Fires & Investigations
Today "fire department" is more of a generic term for the all-hazards response profession that was founded back when fire was one of the principle threats to human life. The evolution away from fire being the mainstay of emergencies occurred over a long period of time. The reduction in fires did not come cheap, though. Many of today's fire and building codes resulted from tragedies where dozens and sometimes hundreds of people died because of situations involving blocked exits, lack of early warning, and use of indoor pyrotechnics.
Although current technology and fire protection practices have dramatically improved fire safety, the combination of human practices and mechanical factors continue to require a well-equipped, well-trained, and fast responding firefighting force.
All of the Worthington Fire & EMS vehicles, including its paramedic units, are staffed and equipped to perform fire extinguishment of varying degrees. The front-line engine/rescue company, ladder company, and medic company are all manned with a minimum of three firefighters. A battalion chief responds to provide command and control of all the resources at a fire scene. It is routine to see neighboring fire department vehicles providing mutual-aid to Worthington in fire suppression efforts.
Like most fire departments, Worthington follows a standard "assignment" for each type of run. An exterior brush or vehicle fire will see response by a single engine company. A fire in a residence will have three engine companies, two ladder companies, one rescue company, one medic company, and a battalion chief on the response.
Also like most departments, when a fire calls for additional help, it is sent via a series of "alarms". These designate the dispatch and response of additional amounts and types of equipment to supplement the original assignment (known as the "first alarm"). Each subsequent escalation of the incident and the requisite resource response is called a "second alarm, third alarm, etc. It is also routine to see specialized units to provide services such as breathing air bottle refilling, firefighter rehabilitation, and diesel supply trucks to refuel the on-scene vehicles.
One of these specialized units is the fire investigator. The Ohio Revised Code specifically stipulates that the fire chief, fire marshal, or fire prevention officer of each jurisdiction shall "...investigate the cause, origin, and circumstances of each major fire...". In Worthington, the Fire Prevention lieutenant is the lead fire investigator, with supplemental help available from select division personnel. The lieutenant also has the option of requesting investigation assistance from the Ohio State Fire Marshal, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the Northwest Area Strike Team (NAS-T).
The Northwest Area Strike Team was organized in the 1980s as a regional fire investigation resource. Each of the founding departments...Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington, Norwich Township, Worthington (then Sharon Township), Washington Township, and Perry Township... theorized that even though they experienced few major fires, it was an overwhelming task for one person to handle all the facets of an efficient fire investigation. The ability to request other trained investigators to assist with tasks such as witness interviews, physical evidence processing, scene sketching, and photography, has been integral to the cause and origin investigations conducted by the member departments. Today NAS-T includes the aforementioned fire departments plus Westerville, Jerome Township, Jackson Township, Liberty Township, and Marysville and since 1986 has included a similar cooperative agreement for response to hazmat incidents.