The primary purpose of a fire department and the core reason for its existence is to fight fires. At the Wausau Fire Department, this core work is carried out primarily by the members employed by the City of Wausau. The Fire Suppression Division is comprised of fifty-four members organized into three shifts A, B and C. These shifts work 24 hours on, with 24 hours off in what is called the California Fire Schedule, which is very popular with most career fire departments in the nation. When vacations and days off are factored in, the net result is a minimum staffing level of 15 with a fully staffed shift being at 18 spread across Wausau’s three fire stations.
To compensate for the small initial attack force, the Suppression Division relies on early notification from its residents. The Wausau Fire Department is a full-time career fire department, where all three fire stations within the city are staffed 365 days a year by professional career Firefighter/Paramedics. The Wausau Fire Department takes great pride in rapid response times and aggressive interior attack to suppress fires before they can increase in size. Overall these tactics have been successful, with most structure fires in Wausau being held to “room and contents” fire, meaning the fire is kept within a small size of a room instead of the entire structure.
In those instances where these tactics are unsuccessful, and further assistance is needed, The City of Wausau participates in MABAS Division 130. MABAS or Mutual Aid Box Alarm System is a coordinated pre-planned system to get the right equipment and firefighters to the scene rapidly. A system is also in place to call off duty firefighters into work for further assistance. In most cases, the fire has usually gone undetected for a long period of time before we are notified. These typically become defensive fires, which require the application of large amounts of water from master stream devices, which are capable of delivering hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water a minute.
The Suppression Division also uses state-of-the-art technology to augment their aggressive initial fire attack: including the most up-to-date personal protective equipment, thermal imaging cameras (revealing fire hot-spots with structures.) Even with all these technological advances, most actual firefighting is still carried out by using brute, manual labor to search out and extinguish fires. A physically fit, appropriately trained and equipped, rapidly deployed, sufficiently sized workforce is the key to successful fire suppression.
Not all fires occur in structures and Wausau, with its large dedication to parks including Oak Island, the potential exists to be threatened by wildfire. The Suppression Division has a specially equipped wild land firefighting vehicle to counter that threat. This is tackled with a UTV with a slide-out pump specifically designed to be more agile and mobile for the wild land environment. The Division personnel are equipped with wild land personal protective equipment and the UTV is able to carry equipment and tools more appropriate for wild land firefighting.
While not actually engaged in fire-fighting, the Suppression Division spends a great deal of time maintaining its apparatus and equipment. Each day personnel start their mornings by checking over all tools and equipment inside assigned vehicles for the day and making sure all equipment is ready for the next emergency. Training is also an initial part of any great career fire department. The Wausau Fire Department personnel train daily on all aspects of the job and try to prepare for any incident that might occur for any and all eventualities.
While not training, all three crews are helping to support the Fire Prevention Division with fire prevention inspections. This not only helps with completing fire prevention inspections but it allows crews to get to know fire stations districts and meet local business owners and employees within those areas.