Frequently Asked Questions

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Barstow Fire Department Emergency Response FAQs

1. Why do so many fire apparatus respond to simple incidents?
 Units are dispatched according to information received by Dispatch. Many times the type of situation found upon arrival is very different from the situation dispatched. And, part of responding to an emergency situation means being prepared to deal with the worst case scenario. Discovering that we need more units upon arrival is often too late. Experience has taught us that it’s better to have too much help than not enough.
2. Why do fire trucks respond to motor vehicle accidents?
 Automobile accidents present other hazards such as potential fire, ruptured fuel tanks, un-deployed airbags and/or the presence of hazardous materials. If any occupants are trapped they will begin the extrication (removal) process. Since all of our firefighters are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) or Paramedics, they can begin assessing an injured party’s condition and assist in providing treatment prior to the arrival of ambulance personnel. Additionally, all fire apparatus carry extrication tools.
3. Why does the fire department respond to medical emergencies and not just paramedics?
 Our firefighters are trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) or Paramedics. With our stations in close proximity, we can often arrive prior to the ambulance and begin life saving techniques. The Barstow Fire Department strives to staff a minimum of two paramedics on every apparatus. So when a fire engine shows up for a medical emergency, the paramedics have arrived.  

4. Why do fire trucks with full lights and sirens go through red lights at intersections and then, after they go through, they turn off their lights and slow down?
Emergency lights and siren are used only when responding to a call. Sometimes several units are dispatched to the same incident. When the first unit arrives on scene, they may assess the situation and inform the dispatcher they can handle the emergency. All other responding units are then cancelled and put back into service, ready to take another call.
5. When I see an emergency vehicle approaching with lights and sirens while I am driving, what should I do?
State law, and common sense, dictates that vehicles yield to emergency vehicles that are operating their emergency lights and siren. Emergency vehicle drivers are taught to pass on the left whenever possible when responding in an emergency mode. When safe, slow down, pull over to the right, and stop. However, there are circumstances where that may not be possible (if you car is already stopped, and you don't have anywhere to pull over). Simply stay put until the emergency vehicle goes around you. If you are blocking the route of the emergency vehicle, and you are able to pull ahead and over into a clear area, use your turn signal to indicate your intentions, and proceed at a safe speed. Never slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road when you see apparatus approaching. Make no sudden moves. If an emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, you should pull over and stop. You have no idea if they are proceeding down the road, or are planning on turning into a driveway or intersection right in front of you. You are not required to slow down or pull over for emergency vehicles that are responding in the opposite direction on a divided highway. Do not tailgate, "draft", or follow a responding apparatus closely. Not only is this illegal, you run the risk of collision as vehicles pull back out into traffic after the emergency vehicle goes by. Move to the Right for Sirens and Lights

6. Why do firefighters break windows and cut holes in roofs when the fire is inside a building? It seems that they are causing more damage than the fire?
Firefighters prepare to cut a hole in a roof to release trapped heat and gasses from an inside fire. Fire in a building creates a tremendous amount of heat and smoke. In many instances, firefighters must remove this heat and smoke before they can get close enough to extinguish the fire. The reduced heat and improved visibility allow firefighters to safely and quickly rescue trapped occupants and extinguish the fire. Heat and smoke rise, so cutting a hole in the roof and breaking out windows in strategic locations allows the smoke to vent upwards, allowing cool air to enter the structure from below. We call this "ventilation".

When a hole is made in the roof, dark smoke and dangerous superheated gases escape because heat and smoke rise. This makes it much easier for the firefighters in the building to see. It also reduces the possibilities of backdraft (an explosion of heated gases) and flashover. Another reason is to see how far the fire has progressed. One of the fastest avenues through which fires spread is the attic. Heat and smoke rise into the attic where fire can move quickly. Firefighters may go ahead of the fire on a roof, cut holes to access the attic and stop the fire from spreading. By venting the window of a room that’s on fire, it actually helps to contain the fire to the room of origin. Otherwise heated gases spread throughout the inside of a structure. Breaking a window really prevents more damage than it appears to cause.

7. How much will I be charged if Barstow Fire responds when I call 9-1-1?
Our services are paid through sales taxes and other taxes collected by the City of Barstow. Therefore, Barstow residents are not charged for fire protection services. If you require emergency transportation via ambulance or helicopter those entities will charge for the services they render. Ground ambulance rates are set by the California Department of Health Services. Air Ambulance rates are not regulated by any government agency.

Code Violations & Hazards

1. How do I report a fire hazard such as a blocked fire lane, locked exit doors, bars on windows with no quick-release latch, etc.?
Call the BFPD Office at (760) 256-2254 or the Barstow Police Department at (760) 256-2211.

2. How do I report fire hazards, such as weeds, overgrown trees or debris?
Please contact Barstow Code Enforcement - Mary Willbond Code Compliance Supervisor (760) 255-5190

3. How do I report a possible swimming pool related code violation (green pool, no pool barriers)?
Please contact Barstow Code Enforcement - Mary Willbond Code Compliance Supervisor (760) 255-5190    

4. How do I dispose of medical waste like used needles and syringes?
These items may be taken to the City of Barstow Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center - 900 Ave. H.

5. How do I safely get rid of hazardous chemicals?
Throwing household chemicals in your trash container, pouring them down the drain, or dumping them at the curb is dangerous and irresponsible. To better serve Barstow residents, the City offers a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. Local businesses and industries that have questions on disposing of hazardous chemicals should contact the City of Barstow’s Contract Administrator for Solid Waste  at (760) 255-5126.

6. Who do I call to report illegal fireworks use?
If Barstow residents see fireworks being sold or used inappropriately, they can report the violations to the non-emergency phone number of the Barstow Police Department at (760) 256-2211. View a list of fireworks that are legal and illegal to sell.

7. How do I safely dispose of fireworks, explosives and ammunition?
For handling of hazardous materials, contact the BFPD Office at (760) 256-2254.

8. How do I get rid of a swarm of bees?
The fire department does not remove bee swarms unless they are attacking people or pose an immediate life-threatening hazard to people in the area. For non-emergency bee swarm removal consult the Yellow Pages under "Bee Removal" or contact the Department of Agriculture.