Changes through time in fighting fires are evident across the country and locally. The Cleveland Fire Department has evolved from a fire department to a full-time emergency service that can respond to a multitude of calls for help.
“When you don’t know who to call, you call the fire department,” said CFD Chief Steve Haun.
“We have gone from being a fire department to a full-service emergency response agency,” Haun said.
The science behind a fire has always been there, but now a fire and its behavior can be studied more in-depth, allowing firefighters to have a better plan of attack.
Industrial fires can be especially taxing on firefighters, and the science behind fighting the fire can help with the decision-making process.
Recently, a local plastics technology business was gutted by fire.
Water pressure was upped to fight the blaze. In the aftermath, investigators continue to search for the cause and origin of the fire. This is relative to the end result of what is known as “fire science.”
From its early beginnings, shortly after the city of Cleveland was established in 1836, when “neighbors helped neighbors” with the bucket brigade, to today, when the band of brothers continue to help their neighbors, the CFD has responded to help people. That help has expanded to include medical issues, technical rescue, crash extrication and essential fire suppression.
Like basically all fire departments, volunteers carried the buckets in the early days. According to historical accounts, J.H. Hardwick, president of Hardwick Stove Co. in 1985, was also the city mayor. He was responsible for beginning an organized effort for installing fire hydrants, hoses, and the first fire truck.
It was still a community effort to fight fires — neighbor helping neighbor.
According to historical accounts, Will Horner became the first chief in 1899.
Fire alarms consisted of whistles and bells. If the whistles announcing a fire were heard, neighbors came ready for action. Whistles were eventually replaced by bells.
Incidentally, as time passed, several family generations of firefighters came to be associated with CFD.
Rob Chase, who retired from CFD a few years ago, is the grandson of Robert Chase.
Robert Chase was appointed as the driver of the fire truck in 1916.
Rob Chase retired as a captain of CFD, but continues to volunteer his services with Bradley County Fire-Rescue.
The CFD remained a volunteer agency, but with a paid chief.
By 1927, CFD had a paid chief and two drivers, who are now called engineers.
According to the accounts, by the 1960s, CFD had 18 full-time firefighters and 22 volunteers.
Mutual-aid response is also an important part of CFD.
They will respond equipment and personnel to area agencies and aid in firefighting or other emergencies, as well as Homeland Security operations.
Training and education to both firefighters and the residents of Cleveland has been a key to fire safety for all involved, according to Haun.
“With cooler weather and the season change, CFD continues our plans to perform duties such as checking and installing one of the most important life-saving tools we can,” Haun said.
Each year, hundreds of smoke alarms are checked for area residents, and if need be, replaced at no charge by CFD firefighters.
Inspection of businesses and industry is also an ongoing process by CFD.
“Education in our schools helps our children to not only be safe, but to teach them what to do in case of a fire or other emergency,” Haun said.
Education to the grown-ups is essential as well, according to Haun.
Winter weather will be upon us soon, and as the temperatures begin to cool, heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves will be warming up area homes.
“Remember the 3-foot rule,” Haun said.
“Make sure all combustibles such as furnishings or other objects are at least three feet from heat sources,” he said.
“It’s also just about time to check smoke alarms and change batteries,” Haun added.
CFD firefighters also work to help the community through fundraiser events and their presence at functions such as the 9/11 tower climb.
Haun said 15 CFD firefighters will be climbing the tower this weekend in memory of the New York firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11.
“CFD has evolved into an ‘all-emergency department, with training in fire suppression, extrication, rope and technical rescue, trench and collapse, urban search-and-rescue, swift-water rescue, medical first response and HazMat,” Haun said.
“Today’s fire department continues a steady pace of progress under the leadership of City Manager Janice Casteel, myself, Mayor Tom Rowland and the Cleveland City Council,” Haun said.
“We extend our thanks to all the people who have made our department successful and look forward to serving the city of Cleveland in the future,” he added.
CFD now has five fire halls. The main station is located at 555 South Ocoee St., and the four other stations were strategically placed around the city’s fringe for optimum response.
Nearly 3,000 calls were answered, with over a third being medical or rescue. The average response time in the city was just slightly over four minutes, according to Haun.