How do the FireFighters know when there is a fire?

From the time the dispatcher hangs up the phone to the time the first fire truck leaves the SW Harbor Fire station averages about 3 minutes, 12 Seconds, during the day and evenings and a little more than 5 minutes in the middle of the night.

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  • That's easy, one way is to look up! That may sound flippant, but it really is true especially when it comes to woods/forest and grass fires. There really is a reason to have burning permits and that is for not only letting you know that it is safe to burn but to also keep us up on who is burning and where. Many times a FireFighter has spotted a column of smoke in the woods and after the dispatcher confirms that there are not any permits for the area, the Fire Department responds to find a fire growing out of control. These fires can come from previous permitted burns or frequently from lightning strikes that may have occurred days earlier. Without the permit process we would have to assume every smoke report is an out of control fire.

    The most common way that the Fire Department receives an emergency call is by a report from someone who sees something
    that looks wrong. A call to 9-1-1 will put this person in contact with the Public Safety Dispatcher at the Police Station.
    The Dispatcher will get as much information as possible from the caller and then relay the information to the Fire Department
    for their action. How do they get this information out in as short a time as possible? By using the Fire Departments radio system,
    the Dispatcher sends out a special signal that turns on a radio that the FireFighters carry on their belts. When the members hear
    the distinctive tone (hence the term "Toning out") coming from his or her "pager" they know that a voice message will follow
    detailing what and where the emergency is that needs there expertise.

    Prior to the introduction of radio alerting systems, Fire Departments had to relay on, at first runners going from place to place alerting persons to help, to systems that use a combination of large air horns and sirens to notify Fire Fighters. Where one needed to be within earshot of these older types of alerting systems, the technology in use today allows the members to travel over a significant radius from the station and still hear a call for help.