Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you send a fire truck along with an ambulance to a medical emergency?

Fire trucks are staffed with first responder personnel and may be able to get to an emergency quicker than an ambulance. An ambulance or rescue unit may provide transport to an emergency room, depending on the nature of the call. All members of the Bristol, VA Fire Department are certified, at a minimum, as Emergency Medical Technician-Basic. Some are certified as Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate, and some are Paramedics.

Bristol Virginia Fire Department ambulances and fire trucks are staffed by cross-trained firefighter/paramedics and firefighter/EMT's. A fire truck is dispatched with the ambulance on many critical EMS calls for additional manpower. In some cases, the fire truck may be closer and can initiate emergency medical care before the ambulance arrives.

Together, the fire truck and ambulance crews make a highly efficient team to provide you with the highest level of pre-hospital care.

What can a fire truck do for me if I am sick or injured?

A fire truck carries much of the same equipment that you would find on an ambulance. The fire truck crew can provide an assessment of your medical condition and begin treating most conditions before the ambulance arrives on the scene. Firefighters can quickly begin various types of medical care by splinting fractures, starting IV’s, performing CPR, or controlling bleeding.

Why do firefighters get upset when you drive over fire hoses?

The fire hose is a firefighter’s lifeline when fighting a fire. If you drive over it, the water supply will be cut off and the hose can be damaged, and any firefighter at the end of a nozzle will have the water interrupted, possibly causing injury or death.

Why are fire hydrants different colors?

The color of the hydrant lets firefighters know about how much water a hydrant is capable of supplying to the fire truck. The color allows the firefighter to determine which one to connect with even if that hydrant is not the closest to the incident. To figure out these colors they have to be turned on and measure how much water they flow in gallons per minute (GPM). As part of maintaining the hydrants by the recommendation of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) the hydrants are to be turned on measured their flow paint them and replace and lubricate them to keep them functioning. By doing this service every year to helps to maintain and in some cases improve our ISO score. In some cases opening up hydrants can discolor your water supply in your home. to fix this simply turn on your cold water on your faucet and let it run until the water clears up. 

How do I get a smoke detector from the Fire Department?

You may visit any of our three fire stations to request smoke detector installation, or call our Fire Administration office at (276) 645-7420. Smoke detectors are installed free of charge at your convenience. Fire station locations are as follows: Fire Station 1, 211 Lee Street; Fire Station 2, 1601 Euclid Avenue; Fire Station 3, 105 Suncrest Drive.

How many smoke alarms do I need in my home and why is my smoke alarm making a funny sound (chirping)?

The placement of smoke detectors depends on the layout and size of your home. At the very least, you should install one detector on each floor, one near the kitchen (but not within 10 feet of the stove), one in each sleeping area, and one in each hallway area and any other strategic area. That’s the bare minimum. If possible, you should have at least one smoke alarm in every bedroom and in the hallway outside each bedroom. A typical 3-bedroom home would need at least 4 properly installed smoke alarms to provide a reasonable amount of protection for your family.

Smoke rises, so the best place to install an alarm is on the ceiling or high on an inside wall approximately 6-8 inches below the ceiling. Any time your smoke alarm goes off, check your home thoroughly. If you see or smell smoke, immediately get out of your home and call 911. If the detector is chirping, replace the battery as soon as possible. Without a working battery, a smoke detector can't do its job and the risk of an occupant dying in a house fire increases greatly.

Why does my water turn brown when firefighters turn fire hydrants on?

The Fire Department inspects fire hydrants for proper operation each year. We turn the fire hydrants on to make sure they operate properly. We turn the hydrants on slowly so as not to stir up the sediment that is in the pipes, but at times the sediment does get stirred up and the water coming out of your faucet can be brown in color. We recommend you simply allow your water to run for a few minutes to flush the sediment. Also, we recommend you not do laundry until the water runs clear. This should only take a few minutes.

Why do I see firefighters in uniform shopping at the local grocery stores?

Firefighters work a 24-hour shift with no scheduled breaks, and meals are not provided by the City. Often the firefighters on shift combine their money to purchase food for meals. Sometimes you may see firefighters in uniform at a grocery store in a fire engine. The only way the Fire Department can ensure that firefighters can arrive to an incident scene in less than 4 minutes is by using the vehicle they respond in-- with all firefighters present and available. Sometimes they may receive a call while shopping for food, which means they must leave directly from the grocery store and come back later to finish their grocery shopping.

Can I take a tour of a Fire Station?

Yes. You may stop by any Bristol Virginia fire station between 8am and 5pm and ask for a tour, but due to the hectic schedules of firefighters with both planned and unplanned activities, we recommend you contact us at (276) 645-7420 to schedule a tour.

Why do I sometimes see an ambulance or fire truck from another city or organization responding to an incident within the City of Bristol, Virginia?

During the course of a day it is not unusual for two or three emergencies to occur at the same time. If our ambulances or fire trucks are busy, we will dispatch a unit from another city, county, or organization. This is called mutual aid and it works both ways—Bristol Virginia Fire Department ambulances and fire trucks are commonly dispatched to neighboring municipalities as well.

Why do I sometimes see fire trucks or ambulances running with their lights and sirens on, and then suddenly they turn them off?

Lights and sirens are only used when responding to an emergency call. If another apparatus reaches the call first, additional apparatus may be cancelled or instructed to proceed to the incident scene in a non-emergency mode.

When I am driving and I am approached by an emergency vehicle, what should I do?

When you notice an approaching emergency vehicle, IMMEDIATELY pull to the right and stop. If you are approaching an intersection and see an emergency vehicle that is approaching the intersection from behind you or another direction, come to a stop preferably one or two car lengths back from the intersection.

Does the fire department do free blood pressure checks?

Yes. You may stop by any Bristol Virginia fire station for a blood pressure check. No appointment is needed, but it is important to note that calls can come in at any moment, so when you stop by, there may not be anyone at the station, or the firefighters may need to rush out if a call comes in.

Does the Fire Department provide child locator decals?

Rescuing people is the top priority for all firefighters. They are trained to make a thorough and systematic search for anyone inside a burning building as soon as they arrive at a fire scene. In the interest of community safety, the Bristol Virginia Fire Department does NOT recommend that "child" or "invalid" locator decals be placed on home windows for a variety of reasons. The typical family moves average of once every five to seven years. Even if a family doesn’t move from the house, the family may switch rooms with time, making the decal meaningless. Often, children sleep in rooms other than their own, leave their room when frightened, or spend the night away and, therefore, may not be in the room marked with a decal. Most importantly, a decal can also invite a burglar to enter through a marked window because the occupant of that room would present less of a threat.

The most effective way to protect your family in the event of a fire in your house is to:

• Ensure smoke alarms are installed and working properly.

• Prepare and practice a family fire escape plan.

Does the Bristol Virginia Fire Department inspect or install car seats?

Yes. The Bristol Virginia Fire Department has certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians on staff who are happy to check or install your car seat. We recommend that you call to schedule an appointment. This will ensure that we have someone available to check or install your car seat.