YOUNGSTOWN - For the city fire department early Thursday morning, it was a case of practice makes perfect.
Already maxed to the limit battling a major second alarm fire at a vacant lower South Side industrial building, the department was hit by a wave of arsons at vacant homes beginning at 1:30 a.m. and lasting until about 5:30 a.m.
The department answered more than 10 calls for arsons during that time.
Tribune Chronicle file
A pair of Youngstown firefighters watch last week as crews mop up operations on an Almyra Avenue house fire. The department has perfected a system for relieving firefighters when there are large or multiple fires that can tie up the entire department.
A suspect is in custody but has yet to be arraigned.
Because of the fire that began late Wednesday evening at RRI, a tire recycling plant on Brittain Street, Chief John O'Neill had to call out reserve crews to man other equipment in case other fires broke out.
It is not the first time the city has called out reserve crews. A fire at a large industrial building on Cherry Street on the East Side May 25 also was a reserve alarm, and reserve crews were called out for that blaze.
O'Neill said firefighters have done it so often during recent years that they have the procedure down to a science.
''We've been doing it for so long,'' O'Neill said. ''Over the years, we've gotten better at it.''
O'Neill said fire dispatchers are briefed on when they should call for help and who they should call. The first call is made to an off-duty battalion chief, who then begins calling in off-duty firefighters, he said.
Those firefighters then man reserve trucks the department has in case they are needed, and those trucks are then taken to the main station downtown because it is the most central location in the city, O'Neill said.
That battalion chief also is responsible for contacting other departments around the city and notifying them that they may need help, O'Neill said.
O'Neill had praise for dispatchers who worked Thursday morning and were constantly dispatching firefighters to fires as well as calling in other personnel and utility crews.
''They kept it really well-organized because they were getting hit from all sides,'' O'Neill said.
In a situation in which reserve crews are used, dispatchers defer to the on-call battalion chief because he knows which crews and which engines are available, O'Neill said.
O'Neill said all major incidents are critiqued, as Thursday's will be, but he said the system in place worked like it was designed.
''The other night was as flawless as you can get,'' O'Neill said.