City of Maumelle Fire Department MaumelleFire.Com
Firefighting Glossary

Firefighting is certainly a unique profession and it carries with it a very unique vocabulary, as well. For that reason, we provide this glossary to give you a glimpse at many of the terms and phrases used by firefighters in Maumelle and around the country. This glossary was originally compiled in 1999 by Maumelle Engineer Michael Cossey and was featured for several years by the now-defunct "Internet Engine & Hose" Web site.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

- B -

A backdraft occurs when an oxygen-starved fire suddenly receives oxygen. The sudden rush of oxygen causes all of the super-heated gases to ignite at the same time, which causes an explosion. While the risk of such an occurance is low, a backdraft is almost always fatal to anyone caught in it.

Basic Life Support
Basic life support (BLS) refers to a level of medical care that does not involve any advanced medical procedures or intravenous (IV) access. Maumelle's career firefighters are trained Emergency Medical Technicians and provide BLS service. Their certification allows them to provide basic life-saving and life-sustaining interventions until paramedics arrive on scene.

Booster Line
Booster line is a hose that is usually one inch in diameter and rubber jacketed. They are used on small fires using the water carried in an apparatus' booster tank and are usually stored on reels. Also referred to as a red line.

Booster Tank
The built-in tank on a pumper or quint that supplies booster lines and hand lines at a fire until a connection with a water source (such as a hydrant) can be made. The booster tank on Maumelle's Engine 1 holds 500 gallons -- nearly a dozen bathtubs worth of water.

Box Alarm
A box alarm describes a fire department's response to a report of fire or smoke inside a structure. In many departments, multiple companies are dispatched at the same time on a box alarm. Some departments have Haz-Mat and Rescue Boxes for hazardous materials and rescue calls. The term box alarm originates from the original pull boxes located on the street in many communities. In Maumelle, the term box alarm is not used. However, Engine Company 1, Engine Company 2 and volunteer firefighters are all initially dispatched for such an incident. In a larger city, the typical structure box alarm would include two or more engine companies, one or more ladder companies, a rescue company and a chief officer.


- D -

Deck Gun
A large and fixed water nozzle attached to an engine. Deck guns deliver larger amounts of water than hand-held hose. (See also Master Stream).

Department of Public Safety
A method some communities use to provide fire and law enforcement services. A department of public safety either relies on all or most members being trained as both police officers and firefighters. The City of Maumelle utilized this method until December 2004, when seperate police and fire departments were created.

Drafting is the pulling of water from a source other than accepting pressurized water from a hydrant or another fire apparatus. Cisterns, lakes, ponds and swimming pools are often used in drafting operations. Many departments in rural areas without fire hydrants use drafting. Although Maumelle firefighters are fortunate to have a strong water system with reliable hydrants, they must use drafting techniques when training at the department's burn bunker. The bunker is located in Lake Willastein Regional Park, which has no fire hydrants.


- E -

The engine is also referred to as a pumper because of its ability to pump water. In most cases, an engine carries small ground ladders, supply line to connect it with a hydrant, hand lines to fight the fire with and a tank holding between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water.

Engine Company
An engine company is a combination of a fire engine and the manpower used to staff it. Maumelle currently has two staffed engine companies that include -- at minimum -- an officer and an engineer. One or two firefighters also included in the company when staffing allows.

Exposures are buildings or structures that are near the structure on fire and that are placed at risk by the fire. A primary focus of the responding fire department will be to protect the exposures, thus reducing the risk of the fire spreading and causing additional damage to life & property.


- F -

FAST (Firefighter Assist and Safety Team) Truck
A FAST truck is a company of firefighters (usually from a truck or rescue company) whose sole function at a fire is to stand by in case a firefighter becomes injured or trapped and needs assistance. The company assigned to the FAST truck is usually a highly trained group and reports only to the incident commander. In some departments, this group is call a RIT (Rapid Intervention Team).

Fast Attack
Fast attack is when the first arriving engine company attacks the fire using water carried in the booster tank, relying on the second company to secure a water supply.
The sudden ignition of all flammable material in a room or structure. As the fire burns and heat is generated and stored in the room on fire, it is possible for the heat to accumulate faster than it can use fuel. Once this reaches critical mass, the heat then turns all the flammables in a room into fuel at one time. The danger is that this causes an inversion of the thermal layers because the new fuel is almost always near the floor. Despite superb protective gear, a firefighter has less than two seconds to evacuate a room that has a flashover.

Foam is a concentrate mixed with water or air and applied to any material that is on fire or could potentially catch fire. The foam creates a barrier between the material and the heat, preventing ignition of flammable gases. Foam is commonly used on flammable liquid fires (gas or oil), but is also being used in some areas for automobile & structure fire applications. Maumelle has the capability to use foam on all four rigs in its fleet.

Forcible Entry
The act of gaining access to a structure through means other than an open window or door. Frequently, firefighters must force open doors that are locked or remove security doors and bars in order to enter a structure to search for victims & extinguish a fire. A variety of hand, power & hydraulic tools can be used for forcible entry.

Forestry Line
A forestry line is a small-diameter, cotton-jacketed handline used to fight brush and forest fires. Its construction reduces the weight a firefighter has to pull and therefore reduces fatigue. Maumelle's Brush 1 carries three pre-connected forestry hoselines of various lengths.

Forward Lay
A forward lay is when fire hose is laid from the hydrant to the fire. (See also reverse lay).


- H -

A handline is a small diameter hose usually used inside a burning structure to directly apply water on to the fire. Handlines are usually 1.5 or 1.75 inches in diameter. Lines as large as 2.5 inches in diameter (also called the "deuce and a half") can be used for heavy fire conditions.

Hose is used to deliver water onto a fire and to provide water from hydrants to firefighting apparatus. The types of hose used include handlines, booster lines and large diameter hose.

An upright metal casting connected to a water supply system and equipped with one or more valved outlets to which a pumper or hoseline can be connected. Maumelle Water Management hydrants are painted red and should be marked with a blue reflector. Central Arkansas Water hydrants are painted silver and are marked with reflective bands. The International Fire Code, as adopted by the City of Maumelle, requires citizens to maintain a 36-inch radius around hydrants to be clear of brush, high grass and other obstructions.


- I -

Incident Command System (ICS)
A management system of procedures for controlling personnel, facilities, equipment and communications from different agencies to work together towards a common goal in an effective and efficient manner. ICS is the chain of leadership and command at the scene of an emergency.


- J -

A term often used in the New England states to refer to a good firefighter. One story has the term originating from the corruption of the phrase, "J-key." Years ago, the bed was the most expensive piece of furniture in a dwelling. Since firefighters weren't as good at stopping fire as they are today, they would attempt to remove as many belongings as possible. The bed was too large to carry out in one piece and had to be disassembled using a bed key. The key was shaped like the letter J and called a J-key.

A generic term applied to a type of rescue tool that can cut, push or pull material (most often pieces of an automobile). Jaws of Life is a synonym, but is the copyrighted product name of Hurst. Holmatro and Amkus are also major manufacturers of jaws.

Jump Line
A jump line is a handline stored in an extended bumper (also called a jump bumper) and preconnected to the engine to allow for a quicker attack.


- L -

Ladder Company
See Truck Company.

Large Diameter Hose
The biggest hose used by firefighters, large diameter hose (LDH) is sometimes referred to as a water main above ground. LDH is usually 4-5 inches in diameter and is used to supply water from the hydrant to pumper trucks. See also supply hose. Maumelle Engines 1 & 2 and Truck 1 are all equipped with 5" large diameter hose.

Leader Line
A leader line is a line usually having a gated wye on the end. Leader lines are usually 3 or 2.5 inches in diameter and the wye usually feeds two or three 1.5 or 1.75 inch attack lines.


- M -

Master Stream
A master stream is a large and fixed stream of water. Master streams are used on the end of aerial ladders on ladder trucks and on top of pumper trucks. Master streams can deliver larger amounts of water than hand-held hose.

Minimum Staffing
The minimum number of firefighters that must be on duty at one time. Currently, the Maumelle Fire Department operates with a minimum of four firefighters on duty with two firefighters assigned to each of the two engine companies. Although six or seven firefighters are assigned to each of the department's three shifts (or platoons), the department sometimes operates at minimum staffing due to sick leave or vacation time.

Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) provides advanced life support ambulance service to the City of Maumelle. They maintain a station with one ambulance staffed by a paramedic and an EMT on Hyman Drive near the city's Public Works facility. When the Maumelle ambulance responds to a call, MEMS normally sends an ambulance from Little Rock or North Little Rock to provide coverage for our city.

A type of master stream similar to a deck gun, but removable from the apparatus. Hose can be laid into it, making it mobile.


- O -

Commonly viewed as "cleaning up" after a fire, overhaul is the process of putting a structure in the safest condition following a fire. Additionally, it is during the overhaul phase of an incident that firefighters verify that the fire has not extended into unknown areas and that hidden "hot spots" are extinguished.


- P -

In most cases, a pumper carries small ground ladders, supply line to connect it with a hydrant, hand lines to fight the fire with and a tank holding between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water. Same as an Engine.


- R -

Red Line
Red line is a hose that is usually one inch in diameter and rubber jacketed. This type of hose is used on small fires using the water carried in an apparatus' booster tank and are usually stored on reels. Same as booster line.

Rescue Company
A rescue company is a term used to describe a rescue truck and the firefighters used to staff it. A rescue company is equipped and trained to handle a variety of duties including search and rescue, medical treatment of victims, suppression at the scene of a fire and the extrication of victims in motor vehicle accidents. The actual duties of a rescue company can vary in different parts of the country as does the term to describe one. A Rescue Company is called a Squad in some areas while other areas use the term when referring to their ambulances.  The Maumelle Fire Department does not staff a rescue company.

Reverse Lay
When supply hose is laid from the fire to the water source, placing the pump at the source of water. (See also forward lay)

RIT (Rapid Intervention Team)
Same as FAST Truck.


- S -

The process of protecting the contents of a building from fire, smoke and water damage. Tools used include salvage covers that are placed over furniture, preventing damage from water and debris.

A mental process of evaluating all of the influencing factors at a fire scene before committing personnel and equipment to a course of action. This usually includes hazards, life safety, fire involvement and plan of attack.
The aerial of a ladder truck. Aerials vary in length depending on the needs and finances of a department. Some are as short as 65 feet, while others reach lengths greater than 100 feet.

Still Alarm
A still alarm is a call requiring only one company. Examples of a still alarm include a small fire or a medical call.
Strike the Box
To transmit or strike an alarm over the radio for a full first alarm assignment. 

Supply Hose
Hose line used to supply water from a hydrant to fire apparatus. Many departments use large diameter hose (see above) for this purpose. LDH is sometimes referred to as a water main above ground and is usually 4-5 inches in diameter. However, some departments use smaller 3-inch hose to supply water at a fire.


- T -

A type of ladder truck with a second cab at the rear of the truck where a firefighter will steer the rear wheels. Because tiller trucks can steer in the front and the back, they are able to navigate turns that other ladder trucks could not. Our neighbors in Little Rock currently have two companies using tillered apparatus -- Truck Company 1 downtown and Truck Company 7 near University Medical Center.

Trash Line
Same as jump line, although not necessarily carried on the front bumper.

Truck Company
A truck company is a combination of a fire truck with an aerial ladder, an assortment of ground ladders and forced entry tools and the manpower used to staff it. Trucks can have straight aerial ladders as short as 65 feet or longer ladders with platforms (buckets) on the end. In many department's truck companies are responsible for ventilation and forcible entry duties. Although Maumelle has a ladder truck, it is only used as a reserve or on an as-needed basis. A standard truck company would include full-time staffing of an officer, driver/operator and two firefighters on a ladder truck.


- V -

Ventilation is the systematic removal of smoke from a building. The most common technique used by Maumelle firefighters is called positive pressure ventilation (PPV). Using PPV, a powerful fan is placed at the front door of a structure and blows air inside. The air increases the atmospheric pressure inside the building until it is greater than the pressure outside the building and forces smoke out.