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Frequently Asked Questions


What type of fire extinguisher should I purchase for my home and how will I know how to use it properly?

There are two types of fire extinguishers available on the market today.  They are either rechargeable or disposable, and come in portable sizes. Portable extinguishers (rechargeable or disposable) for home use are not designed to fight large or spreading fires.  Even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions.

  • The operator must know how to use the extinguisher.  There is no time to read directions during an emergency.
  • The extinguisher must be within easy reach, in working order and fully charged.
  • The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire.
  • The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought.  Extinguishers containing water are unsuitable for use on grease or electrical fires.
  • The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire.  Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in a few as eight to ten second.

Choosing your extinguisher:
Select only fire extinguishers that have been tested by an independent laboratory (e.g. Underwriters Laboratories) and labeled for the type and size of fire they can extinguish. Use these labels as a guide to purchase the type of extinguisher that suits your needs.  Multipurpose fire extinguishers, labeled ABC, may be used on all three classes of fire.  If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and make the fire worse.

Classes of Fires:
Class A: Ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth and paper.
Class B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil and oil-based paints.
Class C: Energized electrical equipment which includes wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances.

Extinguisher Sizes:
Portable fire extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire they can handle.  This rating will appear on the label (e.g. 2A:10B:C.)  The larger the numbers, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out, but higher-rated models are often heavier.  Make sure you can hold and operate the extinguisher before you purchase it.

Installation and Maintenance:
Fire extinguishers should be installed in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route and away from stoves and heating appliances.

Fire extinguishers require routine maintenance.  Read your operator's manual to learn how to inspect and maintain the extinguisher.

Rechargeable extinguishers must be serviced after every use, while disposable extinguishers can be used only once and must be replaced after use. 

Remember the PASS-word:

Pull the pin: This unlocks the lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher.

Aim low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.

Squeeze the lever above the handle: This discharges the extinguishing agent.  Releasing the lever will stop the discharge.

Sweep from side to side: Moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep side to side until the flames are extinguished.  Watch the fire area.  If the fire reignites, repeat the process.

Even if you think you've extinguished the fire, always be sure to call the fire department to inspect the fire site.

Call (714) 288-2541 for a fire extinguisher brochure.

A member of my family is disabled. What does he/she do during a fire?
Assure that you have a well-defined escape plan. Make sure that people who are confined to a wheelchair have immediate access to their wheelchair when an emergency occurs.

Are Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) coming to Orange County?
They are on their way, but there is no set time line when they will arrive. While AHB do attack more aggressively than regular bees and will pursue an enemy further, they attack only when threatened and are not as dangerous as depicted in some recent movies. For precautions and what to do if you are stung or attacked, please call the OFD Community Relations and Education Office at (714) 288-2541 for a brochure.

Can I call 9-1-1 from my cell phone?
Yes you can, but keep in mind that 9-1-1 calls from a cell phone will be routed to the California Highway Patrol (CHP).  If you are on the freeway, that is definitely the way to go.  Here in town, you are better off dialing 9-1-1 from a hard-wired phone, pay phone or if you must use a cell phone, dial 633-1313 for emergencies here in the City of Orange.

How can I get a patch from the City of Orange Fire Department?
The City of Orange Fire Department does not fulfill requests for patches at this time. Sorry!

How can I get my business' fire extinguisher serviced?
Check the yellow pages or an internet search engine (area specific) for a fire extinguisher maintenance company to make the necessary arrangements and establish a schedule.

How do I go about drawing up an escape plan for my home/business?
The four basic steps to draw up an escape plan for your home includes: draw a floor-plan of your home; agree on a meeting place; practice your escape plan; and make your exit drill realistic. For a brochure on Exit Drills in the Home, call the OFD Community Relations and Education Section at (714) 288-2541.

How do I make sure my smoke detector works?
Make sure you change the battery in your smoke detector once a year.  In the meantime, press the button on your smoke detector to make sure it works at least once a month.  If at any time your smoke detector begins to “chirp” consistently this is a signal that your battery needs to be changed.

How do I schedule a station tour?
Tours of the fire station are available and can be scheduled by calling our Fire Administration Office at 288-2500.  Please be able to provide the number of persons in your group, their approximate ages and any special purpose or needs associated with your visit. 

***Please note that visits may end suddenly in the event fire personnel must respond to an emergency!***

Check for Station Tour Dates

How long does it take a fire engine to get to a fire or medical emergency after 911 has been called?
It takes between 3-5 minutes for engines to arrive on scene after a 9-1-1 call has been placed.

Should I have a fire extinguisher in my home?
Fire extinguishers are not required in a residence, but are a good idea.  If you have an extinguisher, it should be placed where it is easily accessible, on the wall. There is no mandate for servicing fire extinguishers in a single family home. 

There is a large swarm of bees on my property. What do I do?

If the bees are posing an immediate threat or there is a multiple bee sting emergency, call 9-1-1 and provide your name, phone number and the location of the bees. Please remain on the line until you are released by the dispatch operator.

If the bees are not presenting an immediate threat, do not disturb them. Call a pest control company located in the yellow pages. 

Because most bee swarm situations occur on private property, the bees must be removed by an experienced bee handler or licensed pest controller hired by the property owner.

If the bees are on City property, City staff will remove them as soon as they are notified.

What can I do to protect my home from wildland fires?
To protect your home from wildfires you must create a safety zone or firebreak by reducing the amount of dead or dying fuel (vegetation) around your home. This does not necessarily mean all vegetation should be removed. In fact, having fire-resistant plants and trees around your home that are properly trimmed and well watered can serve as a firebreak. For a list of things to do to protect your home from wildfires, call the Weed abatement Section at (714) 288-2543.

What can I expect when the Fire Department conducts a fire inspection in my place of business ?

The Fire Department conducts fire and life safety occupancy inspections in each business within the City on an annual basis. Areas that are inspected include those in which the general public has access. Items such as panic hardware, smoke detectors, fire alarms, automatic fire sprinkler systems and portable fire extinugishers are inspected to ensure operational readiness.

Additionally, exit lights and occupant load signs must be present. Should a violation exist, a Notice of Correction will be issued to the responsible party and generally 21 days will be granted to correct the defects. If additional time is necessary, you may contact the Fire Prevention Bureau and request an extension.

Please call (714) 288-2541.

What do firefighters do when they are not on calls fighting fires?
Training takes up a good deal of their time when they are not on call. Firefighters are required to have at least 20 hours of emergency-related training each month. Firefighters also participate in fire safety inspections and drive the community to become familiar with the area to reduce response time during incidents. Firefighters must also check and maintain their equipment and clean and maintain their stations.

What do firefighters do when they are not responding to calls?
Training takes up a good deal of time.  Firefighters are required to have at least 20 hours of emergency related training each month.  Firefighters also perform fire safety inspections at businesses, schools and senior care facilities.  They must also check and maintain equipment, apparatus along with cleaning and maintaining their stations.

What information should I have when reporting a 9-1-1 emergency?

When reporting a 9-1-1 emergency, be prepared to provide the exact location of the emergency, what is involved (auto, home, vegetation, etc.), number of persons involved, your location, and the phone number you are calling from so that you can be recontacted if you become disconnected.

If possible, remain at the scene and provide emergency responders with your eyewitness account of what occurred or what occurred at the time of your arrival at the scene.

What is the Ride-Along-Program?

The purpose of this program is to provide authorized individuals with the opportunity to observe Fire Department routine and emergency field operations.  Fire Department personnel trained to ensure participant safety, respect emergency incident privacy rights, and proficient in Fire/Life Safety presentations will escort participants to various locations and emergency scenes within the city limits during their ride-along experience.

Eligibility:  The following individuals are eligible to participate in the program.

State or County paramedic training administrators or instructors who have a direct relationship to the field of operation that they will be observing.

  1. Physicians and Nurses authorized by the local base station hospital(s).
  2. Students referred by city school administrators.
  3. City residents or notable members of the public selected by the Fire Chief.

Please obtain the required release forms at:

Orange Fire Headquarters
176 S. Grand St.
Orange, CA 92866

What is the best thing to do for a burn?
Cool a burn with water. Do not use ointments, butter or other substances. For minor burns contact a physician. For serious burns, dial 9-1-1 immediately.

What is the work schedule for firefighters?
Firefighters are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Currently, our department works what is called a 3/4 schedule.  This means our firefighters work a 24-hour shift every other day for five days and are then off for four days.  We have three shifts that rotate through this schedule.

What should I do during an earthquake?
If you are indoors, stay there. Get under a desk or table, or crouch down along an inside wall or hallway. If you are outdoors, get into an open area away from trees, buildings, walls and power lines. If you are driving, pull your car to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses or power lines. Remain inside until shaking is over. If you are in a highrise building, stay away from windows and outside walls. Get under a table. Do not use elevators.

When I call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, why does an engine arrive in addition to an ambulance?
The fire department serves as the first responders for all medical emergencies. Our eight fire stations are strategically located throughout Orange so our response times have a positive effect on medical emergencies. In addition to our paramedics, the rest of our fire personnel are certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). We have a minimum of one paramedic assigned to each of our eight engine companies and on each of our three rescue ambulance crews. It is also important to remember that with any medical emergency extra hands of trained personnel are nessessary to assist with the care and moving of a patient onto a gurney.

When I go on vacation, should I let the fire department know?
Contact your local law enforcement agency when leaving for vacation. Leave an emergency number with your neighbors where you can be contacted in case the OFD must respond to an incident at your home. Also leave a key with a responsible party and let the OFD know who the party is in case we have to gain access to your home while you are gone.

When responding to a call in the “middle of the night” do the firefighters have to use the sirens even though traffic is minimal?
Yes, the state vehicle code requires that while responding Code Three, an emergency response vehicle much have all emergency lights on and the siren sounding.  A Code Three response is initiated when life, property or the environment is in immediate danger.  Some examples are chest pain, difficulty breathing, fire, hazardous materials spill, and auto accidents.)

When there is only a small fire, why do so many fire engines respond?
The standard response to a residential structure fire includes 3 engine companies, 1 truck company, 1 transportion/rescue unit and 1 Battalion Chief. If these units are not needed, they are released upon arrival. The main goal of the Orange Fire Department is to protect lives and property and this level of response is needed to accomplish this goal.

Where are fire extinguishers placed in a commercial building?
The general rule for commercial buildings, with no special hazard classification, is an extinguisher with a 2A:10BC rating placed within 75 feet travel distance to another area.  Fire extinguishers should be placed between the hazard and the exit.  For smaller businesses, the best placement is adjacent to the exit door.

Where are smoke alarms required in my home?
In residential dwellings, smoke alarms shall be installed in the following locations:

1. On the ceiling or wall outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of bedrooms.

2.  In each room used for sleeping purposes.

3. In each story withing a dwelling unit, including basements but not including crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics.  [Call the Fire Department for information regarding split levels.]

See listing sheets included with smoke alarms at time of purchase for additional, recommended locations, as well as important and specific mounting instructions.  Read the sheet carefully to avoid installing the smoke alarm(s) in areas prone to producing false alarms.  

This information does not include the special requirements for hotels and motels (Group R-1 occupancies, institutions (Group I-4 occupancies) and care homes for bed-ridden clients (Group R 3.1 occupancies).  New construction must meet more stringent requirements, as must houses undergoing renovations exceeding $1,000 in valuation.

This information is referenced from California Fire Code (2010 ed.) Sections and 907.2.11.

Where can I bring my used sharps (needles, syringes, lancets, etc.) for disposal?
City of Orange Fire and Police stations do not accept used sharps (used needles, syringes, lancets, etc.) for disposal.  Please click here to find locations throughout California that accept used sharps for disposal.  We suggest calling the site first to confirm whether or not that location charges a fee.

Where can I get CPR classes?
Please contact the Red Cross or American Heart Association for more information.

Where can I get first aid classes?
The American Red Cross offers classes in first aid. For information, call 835-5381.

Why do I have to dial 9-1-1? Can't I call the fire station direct and save time?
The 9-1-1 emergency system is designed to save valuable seconds. When you dial 9-1-1, the system routes the police or fire unit that is closest to your home. Fire stations are not properly equipped to take emergency calls and calling the station directly actually wastes response time.

With the recent brush fires, how can I protect my home ?

Homeowners should prepare to do a thorough property inspection.  Look for sources of fire ignition and get rid of them.  For example: dried clippings from trees and/or bushes; old fire wood or lumber; dry grass or weeds; old newspaper and magazines; tree branches that extend from or onto your property; rags that have chemicals or gas or oils on them and overloaded electrical outlets should also be eliminated. Careful consideration should be taken when diposing these items.

Consider purchasing fire extinguishers rated at 2A/10BC and position them in areas within and outside of the house.

Also, during this inspection, make sure the batteries have been changed in all smoke detectors located within the home.

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