The new study marks the first time the impact of different size fire crews has been measured in a way that fire departments across the country can use.
By Jonathan Wilson
An extra firefighter can make a big difference when it comes to saving lives and property.
Testing of fire crews from two local counties shows just how much of a difference.
"We have a three-story, ordinary construction, single-family home. Fire in the second floor, heavy fire in the attic, at this point were doing exterior operations only," a dispatcher shouts on a recording of Fairfax County Fire Communications during a fire this past March.
Firefighters in Fairfax County, Virginia respond to hundreds of residential fire calls like this one each year. Crews of three are usually sent to the scene.
But a new study from the National Institute of Standards and Technology shows a four-person crew could help the team perform essential tasks 25 percent faster.
Fairfax Assistant Fire Chief John Caussin says his fire department currently has four-person crews on paramedic engines and heavy rescue teams, but regular truck teams still have three firefighters.
"It's very difficult for the county to fund any additional positions because of the economy," says Caussin.
The study tested crews from both Fairfax County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Montgomery's fire department is in the process of moving to all four-person teams.
Caussin says he thinks the study will be helpful for discussions about fire staffing levels in Fairfax after the economy turns around.