Fire and Rescue Services
Fire departments across the nation have become more of an 'all-hazards' department, beyond providing readiness and response for the singular threat of fire. The same characterization is true of Waterloo Fire Rescue, and its members have embraced this expanding role in service of the public. In short, the department serves to protect lives, property, and the environment for citizens of Waterloo regardless of the threat. Among its many roles, the department provides citizens of Waterloo with protection from fire and emergent illness or accident and is also responsible for mitigating incidents involving hazardous chemicals or biological agents and threats resulting from severe weather.
Numerous public events in local schools and businesses help enable a primary objective of our department, which is "building a safety conscious community" in Waterloo. Children and their families are invited and encouraged to visit their local firehouse for safety instruction and a station tour. Larger groups are kindly asked to call ahead to schedule an event at (319) 291-4460.
Fire continues to be a public health concern as a significant source of mortality, especially for older populations as well as for young children. Damage from fire remains one of the leading causes of residential property loss. Each of our six stations has an engine staffed with at least three firefighters. These firefighters are responsible for fire suppression and rescue operations as required in particular incidents. Two of our pumpers (303 and 306) provide advanced life support (ALS) and each apparatus is staffed with at least one firefighter-paramedic. Our aerial apparatus and wildland engine both respond from our centrally located station at headquarters. One reserve engine and a reserve quint are maintained at the central garage for the City of Waterloo. Our stations are also equipped with special apparatus for rescue functions, including three boats and a John Deere gator. Two of our rescue pumpers (301 and 306) have special hydraulic tools (i.e., the 'jaws of life') that are used to extricate patients who have become entrapped after a vehicle accident.
Waterloo Fire Rescue provides Fire-service based Emergency Medical Services (EMS), meaning that our ambulances are staged at fire stations and are staffed by cross-trained firefighter-paramedics. This system lends considerable efficiency to our operations, especially for incidents in which medical and fire professionals must dovetail (e.g., motor vehicle accidents). The vast majority of emergency incidents responded to by the department are for medical assistance. The department provides advanced life support (ALS), the highest level of prehospital care. Beyond initiating patient care and providing patient transport for definitive care, ambulance crews are involved in fire suppression efforts. The city has three frontline ambulances, staffed fulltime by dedicated personnel. Two reserve ambulances (333 and 336) are staffed within the city by three personnel, of which at least one is a firefighter-paramedic. Crews at stations 3 and 6 have dual responsibility, responding to an emergency in either an engine or the ambulance depending on the nature of the call.
The department frequently responds to calls for rescue. In all but the most complex incidents, rescues are handled by engine and (or) ambulance companies. Occasionally, rescues and recoveries require special knowledge or equipment in order for the operation to be performed safely and effectively. On such calls, our technical rescue team is notified to assist with the incident. The expertises developed by our personnel are as varied as the rescue incidents to which they are called. Our technical rescue team responds to rescue incidents involving water, ice, low or high angles, trenches, and confined spaces. The team comprises roughly two dozen volunteers from within the department, several of whom are trained at a technician level. Station 2 houses a technical rescue trailer, storing equipment that is primarily used for incidents involving confined spaces or trenches. Rescue pumper 302 carries rigging equipment used for high- and low-angle rescues.
A large proportion of WFR firefighters have specialized training in hazardous materials. These individuals are responsible for mitigation efforts in the city and are well integrated with many local businesses that store and transport hazardous materials. Several years ago, the Northeast Iowa Response Group (NIRG) was formed to provide a shared regional resource for the protection from and mitigation of hazardous materials. NIRG finances equipment purchases, training expenses, and other operational expenditures for a Level-A hazmat response team in northeastern Iowa, which is staffed by members of Waterloo Fire Rescue. The team is capable of mitigating threats involving chemical or biological agents as well as radiological hazards and explosives. The response area for NIRG spans 6,291 square miles, comprising the following counties: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Butler, Chickasaw, Grundy, Hardin, Howard, Poweshiek, Tama, and Winneshiek.
Regional Training Center
Located on more than ten acres in Waterloo (1925 Newell St), the campus at the Hazardous Materials Regional Training Center offers contemporary facilities and training for students and members of the fire service, industry professionals, and public safety officers.
Our staff and facility offers realistic training in actual fire conditions. Your organization can practice making interior and transitional fire attacks as well as a full range of complexity in hose lays and securing a water source. Features within the burn building include: burn rooms on each floor; moveable wall panels, furniture, and other common obstacles to fire attack and firefighter orientation; pyrometer for precise temperature monitoring, a forcible entry simulator; roof chopouts for practicing vertical ventilation, several windows to alter flow paths and permit horizontal ventilation; and a floor opening to simulate rapid intervention scenarios. The same building offers a smoke machine to quickly prepare evolutions under low visibility conditions. Our instructors strictly adhere to NFPA 1403 standards for live-fire training evolutions.
We work with a number of industries in Iowa. Much of our training is done with 'incipient brigades' that perform spill remediation, rescue, fire suppression, and pre-incident planning. We are able to assist in each area, allowing these to become an integral part of their already established system. Our intent is to conduct regular training, making it site specific and based on a thorough needs assessment. This program, as all our programs, entails practical application of lessons learned in the classroom as well as on the job. Our scenarios are site specific with critiques after all training sessions. We train with the equipment that responders will be using, and we will also bring to the table new and innovative concepts and equipment.
HazMat certification and recertification courses are offered at the training facility or, with sufficient interest, may be conducted on-site throughout the state. Technical rescue training is offered, as requested, to prepare the rescuer to safely rig rescues from low angle, steep, and vertical environments.