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Frequently Asked Questions

Do firefighters have to do any extra training?

As the world changes, firefighters have to change and train along with it. The members of the MFD continually train to remain current with medical standards, fire suppression tactics, and even new vehicle technologies (we respond to numerous car accidents). Additionally, many firefighters earn college degrees in various fields from fire science to city management. Since the MFD has its own training center, we instruct classes for our personnel such as officer and driver training. Our department also has three special teams: Dive Rescue, H.U.R.T, and Hazardous Materials. These personnel train in their respective discipline monthly.

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What other responsibilities do firefighters have other than fight fires?

A short answer would be the MFD handles all the emergencies that the police don’t. So here’s the complete answer. Of the more than 55,000 calls per year the MFD receives, about 75 to 80 percent are medical emergencies. The rest are varied in nature. We respond to house fires, car fires, garage fires, natural gas leaks, water leaks, carbon monoxide alarms, residential and business fire alarms, car accidents, rollovers, chemical leaks, boating accidents, industrial accidents, building collapses, natural disasters, explosions and much more. We are in the business of handling those one in a million emergencies.

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How much does a firefighter's gear weigh?

Different manufactures make their gear out of slightly different materials that can determine the weight. However, the gear the MFD uses weigh approximately 50 pounds. The MFD uniform consists of a fiberglass helmet, nomex hood, bunker coat & pants, gloves, spanner belt, ax and boots that collectively weigh roughly 25 pounds. Firefighters also wear a SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) with a full 30-minute bottle, adding another 25 pounds. However, keep in mind that when our gear gets wet, it absorbs water and adds another 10 or so pounds of weight (e.g. My weight =185 lbs. + gear =210 lbs. + mask = 235 lbs.).

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Do EMTs and Paramedics have the same job responsibilities?

There are several levels of EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) which includes Basic (EMT‐B), Intermediate (EMT‐I), and finally Paramedic. The difference lies in the training. EMT basic is a semester course and includes basic assessment skills, shock and wound care, and patient packaging. Paramedics have to first complete all EMT‐basic coursework, and then attend an additional year of school. They are able to treat the most serious of medical conditions like heart attacks, asthma, sudden death and severe trauma. Additionally, they can start IV’s and insert breathing tubes.

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What is the difference between a fire engine and a fire truck?

There is a lot of slang and specific jargon in the fire service. A fire engine (Engine or Pumper) is equipped with a 500 gallon water tank, a pump and fire hose. There are 30 Engine Companies in Milwaukee that aid us in getting to any emergency in approximately 3 minutes. A Fire Truck (Truck, Aerial or Ladder) doesn’t carry water or a hose. Trucks carry a steel ladder that stretches to 105 feet, with a nozzle at the tip to spray water onto a fire from above and have to be connected to an Engine. Trucks additionally have several ladders stored in back ranging from 8 to 35 feet. The remaining space in Trucks are used for storage and contains items such as lights, generators, saws, axes, rams, and some carry the famed “Jaws of Life.” There are 8 truck companies active in the City.

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Why do firefighters break all the windows during a fire?

Firstly, breaking out the windows during a fire is something you should NOT do! It can make the fire much worse and decrease the chances of survival for trapped occupants.

When the MFD break out windows during a fire, there is a science to it that we are trained in. Windows are broken in coordination with firefighters on the inside so when they place water on the fire, open windows allow the steam to escape. Without the windows being broken, the steam would cook firefighters in their suits. The openings also help to release smoke and increase visibility inside a building.

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What is the difference between a Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) ambulance, versus the other type of ambulances I see throughout the City?

The MFD operates 12 ambulances (you’ll notice they’re painted fire engine red) that are staffed with paramedics. These ambulances provide advanced life support and emergent transport for the most serious medical emergencies. The private ambulance companies are typically staffed with EMTs and provide transport for patients who require basic supportive care.

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What type of training does it take to become a firefighter?

There is an Associate’s Degree in fire science offered by most technical colleges; however, the Milwaukee Fire Department has its own training center. The recruit class is an intensive 16-week program where fire recruits are trained in firefighting and receive emergency medical training.

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Why does the fire department show up when I call 911 for a medical emergency?

All Milwaukee firefighters are trained as basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs). All of our fire apparatus carry oxygen and medical equipment to help treat everything from a broken leg to a gun shot wound to delivering babies.

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What type of schedule do firefighters work?

Different city fire departments have different work schedules. The MFD work a 24-hour shift and have 48 hours off. MFD firefighters can work a maximum of 48 hours, but are then mandated to have 24 consecutive hours off. During a 24-hour shift, firefighters live at a fire station and have duties such as maintaining the apparatus and engine house, as well as training.

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Who do I contact if I have additional questions?

Please e-mail our Community Relations Director at [email protected]. The Community Relations Director will funnel your question to the appropriate person and send you a response.

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How do I get a free smoke alarm installed in my home?

If you live in a single-family home or duplex, please call the Smoke Alarm Hotline at (414) 286-8980. If you live in a apartment building, please contact Department of Neighborhood Services at (414) 286-2268.

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