DIAL 911


Cary Fire Department has answered several of the most frequently asked questions that firefighters receive regarding their duties and fire safety.  Click on the questions below to see the answer or explanation.

Q:  How often should I check the batteries in my smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?

A:   Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should be tested monthly and the batteries should be replaced twice every year.  Our recommendation is to replace batteries every time you re-set your clocks for Daylight Savings Time in both the Spring and Fall.

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Q:  Does Cary Fire Protection District issue a calendar?

A:   CFPD does not issue a calendar.  However, we do have a calendar of annual training and events.  Contact our business office at 847-639-2121 for more information.

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Q:  Does CFPD offer assistance installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?  If so, is there a cost?

A:   Yes!  We will install both smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors.  The fire department does not charge a fee for the installation, but the homeowner is responsible for paying for or supplying the detectors themselves.

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Q:  What should I do if I cannot afford a smoke or carbon monoxide detector?

A:   Cary Fire Protection District can help families who cannot afford smoke or carbon monoxide detectors.  Contact our business office at 847-639-2121 for more information.

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Q:  My fire extinguisher has an expired tag on it.  How do I renew this?

A:   There are no requirements for fire extinguishers located in private residences.  On the bottom or neck of the extinguisher there is a date stamped into it which shows the year that the extinguisher is no longer good.  The date varies depending on the type of extinguisher and its size, but most are usually good for 5 years.

Fire extinguishers that are located in a business are required to be checked annually by a fire extinguisher service company.  The company will test and confirm the extinguisher is in good working order and will place a new tag on it advising the new date of inspection.  Extinguishers for businesses need to be re-checked annually.  These companies will also check residential fire extinguishers as well, and replace or refill them if needed.  However, it is usually cheaper to purchase a new one for your home.

CFPD does not inspect, test, refill or install fire extinguishers.  We can only advise you to contact an extinguisher service company.  However, we can offer you instruction on how to properly select and use a fire extinguisher for your home.

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Q:  I need help knowing how to install a child's car seat properly.  Can you help me?

A:   CFPD can assist you with properly installing a car seat, and there is no cost to do so.  However, we currently have only one person certified to make installations.   Please call our station for more information or to make an appointment for an installation at 847-639-2121.

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Q:  Who do I contact for a house inspection?

A:   To request a residential fire inspection, all you need to do is call CFPD to set an appointment.  There is no fee for the inspection, either.  Call our Headquarters at 847-639-2121 and ask for Lieutenant Andy Veath of the Fire Prevention Bureau.

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Q:  What do I need for firefighters to save my pets in a fire?

A:   CFPD will try to rescue any pets from a fire if it can be done safely.  Our first priority is to human life safety, including both citizens and our firefighters.  Our next priority is to protect property.  Pets are included in this category.  Our goal is to stop the damage from the fire that is burning and to prevent the fire from spreading to other property.  If we can safely rescue pets, we will, but we cannot risk a firefighter's life to rescue a pet or other property.  Nationally, firefighters are getting away from the practice of putting firefighters at risk to save property.

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Q:  What is the easiest way to prevent a house fire?

A:   This is a simple one - install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors!  All homes should have at least 1 detector for smoke and 1 detector for carbon monoxide, but we recommend 1 of each on every floor of your home.  As stated above, test each detector every month and replace their batteries every time you change your clocks for Daylight Savings.

Also, most people do not read the instructions for these devices, so when they hear it going off, they immediately call the Fire Department.  However, most detectors have different sounding beeps and alarms to signify different problems.  Most detectors signal a constant tone when there is actually smoke or CO detected, while emitting an intermittent beeping sound which indicate low battery life or a malfunction.  This can be fixed by replacing the detector's batteries or installing a new detector.  However, if you are ever in doubt, call us!  We would rather come out to find there is no problem and everyone is safe, than to have homeowners ignore their detector's beeps and lose their property or lives!

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Q:  How long does it take to put out the average fire?

A:   This is not a simple question to answer, and there is probably no such thing as an "average" fire.  There are a lot of variables that come into play and affect the fire and the way it is extinguished, such as:

How big is the house or building involved?
How long has the fire been burning before it was found?
Is there an adequate water supply?
Does a rescue need to be made?
And even... What time of day is it?

Generally a fire can be extinguished fairly quickly, sometimes as little as 10-15 minutes.  However, we usually remain on the scene for 2-3 hours or longer performing other tasks such as salvage operations to protect personal items, overhaul to make sure the fire is out and has not extended into other parts of the house, and investigation to determine the cause of the fire.  Large fires can take several hours, even with the help of other nearby fire departments.

Each of our fire engines has a water tank with at least 500 gallons of water.  We also have a tanker truck which holds 3,000 gallons.  Unfortunately, only 50% of our District has fire hydrants.  For those who do not, we have to bring water to the scene with us.  In these cases, it usually takes longer because we need time to setup our water supply and often have to wait for additional trucks bringing more water to the scene.

Another factor is whether a rescue is involved.  Luckily, we do not have a lot of fires with people trapped, but it can and does happen.  If the first arriving units determine that there are people who need rescuing, initial fire attacks may be delayed until the rescue is done or in progress.  This means the people are rescued quicker, but the tradeoff is the fire has a chance to grow bigger and more dangerous, requiring more time to extinguish.

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Q:  Why do some towns have Fire Departments while others have Fire Protection Districts?

A:   In Illinois, there are 2 types of fire service agencies.  First, is a municipal Fire Department (FD), where the city or village runs the FD as a part of the services they offer, such as a police department or public works.  A municipal FD only serves the citizens within the municipal borders, unless they have a contract with another town or area to provide service to them as well.  The mayor and city council have input and control over a municipal FD also.  In McHenry County, only 2 departments, Crystal Lake and Lakewood, are municipal fire departments.  Residents living in unincorporated Crystal Lake are protected by the Crystal Lake Rural Fire Protection District.

The other type of fire service agency in Illinois is a Fire Protection District (FPD), such as Cary.  An FPD covers areas in cities that do not have their own FD, as well as unincorporated areas.  Each FPD has their own appointed or elected officials which oversee the district, and have no ties to any municipality.  In CFPD, we cover the entire towns of Cary, Trout Valley and Oakwood Hills.  We also cover parts of Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, including the surrounding unincorporated areas of these towns in both McHenry and Lake Counties.

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Q:  What advice would I give to someone interested in becoming a firefighter?

A:   Every department and fire protection district has different hiring criteria based on how they operate.  Some hire full-time career members, while others hire many part-time members and paid-on-call (POC) members.  Some departments also operate with volunteers firemen.  Most departments have an age requirement, usually between 21 and 35, and may have residency requirements in order to apply.  Almost all departments have training requirements.  For instance, you may need to be a certified paramedic or have completed 60 hours of college credit to apply.  If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, most colleges, including our local McHenry County College, offer courses in Fire and Emergency Medical Services to begin your training.  Most departments require some college credit hours just to apply.  Check with the department you are interested in joining to discover what their requirements are.

Specifically regarding Cary Fire Protection District, we have 6 full-time career members and the rest is composed of part-time and paid-on-call (POC) members.  To apply for a position at CFPD, you must already be a certified Firefighter II (FF2) and Paramedic.  Once on the team, you must then get certified as a Fire Apparatus Engineer within 6 months, and also become a certified CPR Instructor within 1 year of hire.  Our minimum age requirement is 19, and our maximum is 70 years of age.  You must also live within 25 miles of the district.

As a POC member, the requirements are a little easier.  You must be within the age requirements and live inside the district only.  Once hired, our department will send you to FF2 and EMT-B training.  Once you have those certifications, you may switch to a part-time position at our station.  Our part-time shifts are 12 hours, running from 6:00am to 6:00pm, and then 6:00pm to 6:00am every day.  Applying to a department that uses POC and PT members is a great way to get started in your fire training and your career as a firefighter and EMT.

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Q:  How much schooling is required to become a firefighter?

A:  All members of the Cary Fire Protection District are required to become a certified Firefighter II (FF2) and Emergency Medical Technician - Basic (EMT-B).  Both classes take approximately 6 months to complete on a part-time basis.  Both have classroom and practical training.  Anyone who successfully completes both courses is then eligible to test for their certification.

In Illinois, the Office of the State Fire Marshall (OSFM) certifies all firefighters in the state.  Illinois only has two firefighting levels - the basic level (FF2), and the advanced level (FF3).  (Illinois does not have a certified Firefighter I (FF1) level like some states do, so Firefighter II (FF2) is the first level of certification.  The material covered in other states' FF1 certification is covered in Illinois at the FF2 level.)

Each level has objectives setup to match criteria from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for firefighters.  The Illinois OSFM then has multiple other certifications for advanced and technical training.  Some classes are 40 hours long, while others are 200 hours.  Below is a list of the OSFM programs and certifications:

Firefighter Programs:
Airport Firefighter
Arson Investigator
Firefighter II and III
Fire Apparatus Engineer
Fire Investigator
Fire Officer I, II, and III
Fire Prevention Officer I, II, and III
Fire Service Instructor I, II, and III
Fire Service Vehicle Operator
Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Specialist

Other Illinois OSFM Programs:
Hazardous Materials (HazMat)
HazMat Awareness
HazMat Incident Command
HazMat Operations
HazMat Specialist
HazMat Technician

Rescue Programs:
Confined Space
Rope Operations (previously called Vertical I)
Structural Collapse Operations
Structural Collapse Technician
Technical Rescue Awareness
Trench Operations
Trench Technician
Vehicle and Machine Operations
Vehicle and Machine Technician
Vertical II  (Vertical I is now called Rope Operations)
Water Operations

Additional information about the Illinois OSFM, National Fire Protection Association and other organizations can be found on their websites, which are located on our Links page on the Menu.