What Does Three-Alarm Fire Indicate in Emergency Codes?

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sbrothy
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This may seem like a stupid question but it's been puzzling me for some time. I've read stories in English where fires are referred to as, for instance, a three-alarm fire or a four-alarm fire and I just now met the concept again.

What does this mean?

Where I'm from (Denmark) a fire alarm is a fire alarm. I've never heard anyone making these distinctions. Is it because a specific number of sections of a building is on fire, or is it a widely understood type of ringing.
 
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In general, it refers to how many fire stations have been called to handle a fire. Each station house has an alarm that goes off when they are called so if three different stations are called, that would be a three-alarm fire. For example, a large warehouse fire that couldn't be handled by a single station, would result in multiple stations being called in from other areas to support the primary station.
 
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Borg said:
In general, it refers to how many fire stations have been called to handle a fire. Each station house has an alarm that goes off when they are called so if three different stations are called, that would be a three-alarm fire. For example, a large warehouse fire that couldn't be handled by a single station, would result in multiple stations being called in from other areas to support the primary station.
Aaah. Thank you. Now it makes sense.
 
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Very often, it is used colloquially to refer to a problem or emergency that needs more help than normal.
 
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Borg said:
Very often, it is used colloquially to refer to a problem or emergency that needs more help than normal.
There's also a company that makes a chili preparation kit, Two Alarm Chili Kit. Here, the "two alarm" in the name suggests that it's pretty hot (spicy).
chili.png
 
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Mark44 said:
There's also a company that makes a chili preparation kit, Two Alarm Chili Kit. Here, the "two alarm" in the name suggests that it's pretty hot (spicy).
That used to be a favorite of mine (along with the four-alarm version)! I haven't made that in a long time.
 
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Borg said:
it refers to how many fire stations have been called to handle a fire.
It's more than the number of fire stations, in general. The First Alarm will almost certainly be handled by multiple stations and a Battalion Chief and at least one ambulance on stand-by. A second alarm calls out even more stations and resources. Around here (Northern California), the first alarm usually involves at least 2 stations and extra resources:

1707837528233.png

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple-alarm_fire
 
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I was mainly trying to explain the colloquial version of the phrase that I thought that he was referencing but that works too. :smile:
 
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That something US-specific? Or do the Brits use this kind of expression too?
 
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Where I am from, it means three different municipalities have been called in. That might be over a half dozen stations. It usually means a big fire, a high degree of risk (such as high density housing), hazardous materials or several of the above. If there's one of these near you, you probably want to be somewhere else.

It would be interesting to track down the first usage (anyone have access to the full OED?) as fire-fighting has evolved.

If this were in the Lame Jokes thread, I'd say that a 1-L lama is a holy man, a 2-L llama is an animal, and a 3-L lllama is a very big fire.
 
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Bandersnatch said:
That something US-specific? Or do the Brits use this kind of expression too?
I think it's specific to the way the US organises fire services. I only know the expression from US sources, anyway.
 
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Borg said:
I was mainly trying to explain the colloquial version of the phrase that I thought that he was referencing but that works toDont worry. I took your explanation to hert

Borg said:
I was mainly trying to explain the colloquial version of the phrase that I thought that he was referencing but that works too. :smile:
Dont worry. I took your explanation to heart. It answered my question quite perfecty,The rest is just noise. Funny noise but still.....
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
a 1-L lama is a holy man, a 2-L llama is an animal, and a 3-L lllama is a very big fire.
Ogden Nash said:
The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.
My parents had a book of Ogden Nash poems, and this one (among others) stuck in my head.
 
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