Fire department

A fire department (American English) or fire brigade (British English)[note 1], also known as a fire protection district, fire authority or fire and rescue service is an organization that primarily provides firefighting services for a specific geographic area. Fire departments are most commonly a public organization who operate within a municipality, county, state, nation, or special district. Private and specialist firefighting organizations also exist, such as those at airports.

A fire department contains one or more fire stations within its boundaries, and may be staffed by career firefighters, volunteer firefighters, drafted firefighters, paid on-call firefighters or a combination thereof (referred to as a combination department).[1]

A fire department may also provide fire protection or fire prevention services, whereby firefighters visit homes and give fire safety advice and fit smoke alarms for members of the public. In many countries, fire protection or prevention is seen as an important role for the fire service, as preventing a fire from occurring in the first place can save lives and property. Fire departments also employ fire investigators. In some places such as large US cities, it is common for the fire department to run the emergency medical service, which requires more frequent call-outs than firefighting.

A fire department's station and engines, in Bennett Valley, California


Fire departments are organized in a system of administration, services, training, and operations; for example:

Emergency fire & rescue vehicles of the German fire services.
  • Administration is responsible for supervision, budgets, policy, and human resources.
  • Service offers protection, safety, and education to the public.
  • Training prepares skilled people with the knowledge to perform their duties.
  • Operations performs the tasks to successfully save the public from harm.[2]

A fire service is normally set up where it can have fire stations and sophisticated fire engines strategically deployed throughout the area it serves, so that dispatchers can send fire engines, fire trucks, or ambulances from the fire stations closest to the incident. Larger departments have branches within themselves to increase efficiency, composed of volunteers, support, and research.

  • Volunteers give advantages to the department in a state of emergency.
  • Support organizing the resources within and outside of the department.
  • Research is to give advantages in new technologies for the department.


Logistical Center & Maintenance Depot of the Houston Fire Department.

Most places are covered by a public sector fire department, which is established by a local or national government and funded by taxation. Even volunteer fire departments may still receive some government funding.

The typical size of a fire department varies greatly by country. In the United States, firefighting is usually organized on a municipal level. Some municipalities belong to "fire protection districts" that are served by the same fire department, such as the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. Germany and Canada also organize fire services at a municipal level. In France, fire services mostly cover one department. In the United Kingdom, most fire services cover one or more counties, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have a single fire service each. In Australia, state governments run the fire services, although three states have separate agencies for metropolitan and rural areas. Israel and New Zealand have national fire and rescue services.


Besides firefighting, fire departments may also provide specialized services, such as hazardous materials mitigation and technical rescue.

In many countries or regions (e.g., the United States, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau), fire departments are often responsible for providing emergency medical services. Firefighters are cross-trained as emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics. While some services act only as "first responders" to medical emergencies, stabilizing victims until an ambulance can arrive, other fire services also operate ambulance services.


Knox Automobile produced the first modern fire engine in 1905.
A 1951 Dennis P12 fire tender as formerly used by the Wiltshire Fire Brigade.
NSW Fire Brigades Pumper Class 2 and rescue
A Fire and Rescue NSW truck in 2008.

Ancient Rome

The earliest known firefighting service was formed in Ancient Rome by Marcus Egnatius Rufus who used his slaves to provide a free fire service.[3] These men fought fires using bucket chains and also patrolled the streets with the authority to impose corporal punishment upon those who violated fire-prevention codes. The Emperor Augustus established a public fire department in 24 BCE, composed of 600 slaves distributed amongst seven fire stations in Rome.[4]

1600s and 1700s

Fire departments were again formed by property insurance companies beginning in the 17th century after the Great Fire of London in 1666. The first insurance brigades were established the following year.[5] Others began to realize that a lot of money could be made from this practice, and ten more insurance companies set up in London before 1832: The Alliance, Atlas, Globe, Imperial, London, Protector, Royal Exchange, Sun Union and Westminster.[6] Each company had its own fire mark, a durable plaque that would be affixed to the building exterior. A company's fire brigade would not extinguish a burning building if it did not have the correct fire mark.[7]

Amsterdam also had a sophisticated firefighting system in the late 17th century, under the direction of artist Jan van der Heyden, who had improved the designs of both fire hoses and fire pumps.[8]

The city of Boston, Massachusetts established America's first publicly funded, paid fire department in 1679.[9][10] Fire insurance made its debut in the American colonies in South Carolina in 1736, but it was Benjamin Franklin who imported the London model of insurance. He established the colonies' first fire insurance company in Philadelphia named the Philadelphia Contributionship,[5] as well as its associated Union Volunteer Fire Company, which was an unpaid (volunteer) company.[11]

In 1754,[12] Halifax, Nova Scotia established the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, which is today Canada's oldest fire department.

Haddonfield fire department history
Plaque with the history of the department in Haddonfield, NJ.

In 1764, Haddonfield, New Jersey established the second oldest fire company in the United States.

In 1773, the city of Petersburg, Virginia established one of the first fire departments in the United States[13][14] and it was also made up of unpaid volunteers[15]


In the 19th century, the practice of fire brigades refusing to put out fires in buildings that were uninsured led to the demand of central command for fire companies.[16]Cities began to form their own fire departments as a civil service to the public, obliging private fire companies to shut down, many merging their fire stations into the city's fire department. In 1833, London's ten independent brigades all merged to form the London Fire Engine Establishment (LFEE), with James Braidwood as the Chief Officer.[17] Braidwood had previously been the fire chief in Edinburgh, where the world's first municipal fire service was founded in 1824, and he is now regarded, along with Van der Heyden, as one of founders of modern firefighting.[8] The LFEE then was incorporated into the city's Metropolitan Fire Brigade in 1865 under Eyre Massey Shaw.

Established in 1853, the Cincinnati Fire Department is the oldest paid fully professional municipal fire department in the United States.[18]

In 1879, Notre Dame University established the first University-based fire department in the United States [19]


In 1906, the first motorized fire department was organized in Springfield, Massachusetts, after Knox Automobile of Springfield produced the first modern fire engine one year earlier.[20]

See also


  1. ^ In the United States, a "fire brigade" is the private firefighting organization of a company or enterprise, operated under rules from OSHA.
  1. ^ Cote, Arthur E. (2003). "Basics of Fire and Fire Science". Organizing for Fire And Rescue Services. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-87765-577-0.
  2. ^ Weichelt, Bryan; Yoder, Aaron; Bendixsen, Casper; Pilz, Matthew; Minor, Gerald; Keifer, Matthew (2018-07-03). "Augmented Reality Farm MAPPER Development: Lessons Learned from an App Designed to Improve Rural Emergency Response". Journal of Agromedicine. 23 (3): 284–296. doi:10.1080/1059924x.2018.1470051. ISSN 1059-924X.
  3. ^ "Fire-brigades in the Roman realm". Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  4. ^ Coe, Charles K. (February 2009). Handbook of Urban Services: A Basic Guide for Local Governments. M.E. Sharpe. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7656-2294-5. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b Cote, Arthur E.; Bugbee, Percy (December 1988). Principles of fire protection. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-87765-345-5. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  6. ^ "From Fire Marks to James Braidwood, the Surveyor who set up the Fire Brigade". Independent Surveyors Association. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  7. ^ "Firemarks and payments". London Fire Brigade. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  8. ^ a b Hensler, Bruce (1 June 2011). Crucible of Fire: Nineteenth-Century Urban Fires and the Making of the Modern Fire Service. Potomac Books, Inc. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-1-59797-684-8. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  9. ^ Klinoff, Robert (2007). "Public Fire Protection". Introduction to Fire Protection, 3rd Edition. Thomson Delmar Learning. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-4180-0177-3.
  10. ^ "History - City of Boston".
  11. ^ IFSTA (2004). Fire Service Orientation and Terminology. Fire Protection Publications, University of Oklahoma. ISBN 978-0-87939-232-1.
  12. ^ "Museum shows off Canada's oldest fire department's history". The Chronicle Herald.
  13. ^ "Established in 1773, the Petersburg Department of Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services is one of the oldest organized fire departments in the country"
  14. ^ "Petersburg, VA - Official Website - Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services".
  15. ^ "Petersburg, VA - Official Website - Fire Department History".
  16. ^ Anderson, Annelise. "The Development of Municipal Fire Departments in the United States" (PDF). Mises Institute. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  17. ^ "James Braidwood and the London Fire Engine Establishment (LFEE)". London Fire Brigade. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  18. ^ Grace, Kevin (Oct 29, 2012). Irish Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. p. 44. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  19. ^ ENR/PAZ // University Communications: Web // University of Notre Dame. "NDFD, nation's oldest university fire department, turns 135".
  20. ^ KNOX AUTOMOBILE COMPANY Accessed: 4/27/2012
Albemarle County, Virginia

Albemarle County is a county located in the Piedmont region of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its county seat is Charlottesville, which is an independent city and enclave entirely surrounded by the county. Albemarle County is part of the Charlottesville Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of Albemarle County was 98,970, more than triple the 1960 census count.

Albemarle County was created in 1744 from the western portion of Goochland County, though portions of Albemarle were later carved out to create other counties. Albemarle County was named in honor of Willem Anne van Keppel, 2nd Earl of Albemarle. However, its most famous inhabitant was Thomas Jefferson, who built his estate home, Monticello, in the county.

Austin Fire Department

The Austin Fire Department provides fire protection and emergency medical services to the city of Austin, Texas. The Austin Fire Department is the fourth largest fire department (by number of personnel) in the state of Texas. In total, the department is responsible for an area of 272 square miles (700 km2) and services a population of 885,400 (2013 estimate), the 11th largest city by population in the United States.

Boston Fire Department

The Boston Fire Department provides fire protection and first responder emergency medical services to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to fire protection, the department responds to a variety of emergencies such as medical emergencies, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material spills, electrical hazards, floods, and construction accidents.

The Boston Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in New England and serves approximately 636,000 people living in a 47-square-mile (120 km2) area of the city proper and provides additional mutual aid to 32 surrounding communities of the Greater Boston Metro Area, including Logan International Airport.

Brockton, Massachusetts

Brockton is a city in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States; the population was 95,314 in the 2015 Census. Brockton, along with Plymouth, are the county seats of Plymouth County. Brockton is the seventh largest city in Massachusetts and is sometimes referred to as the "City of Champions", due to the success of native boxers Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, as well as its successful Brockton High School sports programs. Two of the villages within the city are Montello and Campello, both have the distinction of having their own MBTA Commuter Rail Stations and post offices. Campello is the smallest neighborhood in the city, but also the most populous. Brockton hosts a baseball team, the Brockton Rox. Brockton is one of the windiest cities in the United States, with an average wind speed of 14.3 mph.

Fire photography

Fire photography is the act of taking photographs of firefighting operations. People who practise this form of photography are called fire photographers.

Since fire photography involves being close to dangerous situations, fire photographers must have special skills and knowledge about emergency incident scenes, operations, health, and safety. Fire photographers are often required to wear firefighter protective equipment.


A fireboat is a specialized watercraft with pumps and nozzles designed for fighting shoreline and shipboard fires. The first fireboats, dating to the late 18th century, were tugboats, retrofitted with firefighting equipment.

Older designs derived from tugboats and modern fireboats more closely resembling seafaring ships can both be found in service today. Some departments would give their multi-purpose craft the title of "fireboat" also.

They are frequently used for fighting fires on docks and shore side warehouses as they can directly attack fires in the supporting underpinnings of these structures. They also have an effectively unlimited supply of water available, pumping directly from below the hull. Fireboats can be used to assist shore-based firefighters when other water is in low supply or is unavailable, for example, due to earthquake breakage of water mains, as happened in San Francisco due to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Some modern fireboats are capable of pumping tens of thousands of gallons of water per minute. An example is Fire Boat #2 of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Warner Lawrence, with the capability to pump up to 38,000 US gallons per minute (2.4 m3/s; 32,000 imp gal/min) and up to 400 feet (122 m) in the air.

Fireboats are most usually seen by the public when welcoming a fleet or historical ships with a display of their water moving capabilities, throwing large arcs of water in every direction.

Occasionally fireboats are used to carry firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, and a physician with their equipment to islands and other boats. Some may be used as icebreakers, like the Chicago Fire Department's Victor L. Schlaeger which can break 8 to 12 inch ice.

They may also carry divers or surface water rescue workers. Passengers from ships in danger can be also transferred to various kind of rescue boats. Rescue boats may be used also for oil and chemical destruction on rivers, lakes and seas.For example, the Helsinki Rescue Department in Helsinki, Finland has various kinds of boats for various kind of firefighting, rescue, and oil destruction tasks.Also hydrocopters, rigid-hulled inflatable boats, fanboat and even hovercrafts and helicopters are used in fire, rescue and medical emergency situations.

Cities with fireboats are usually located on a large body of water with port facilities. Smaller fire departments lacking resources will use rigid-hulled inflatable boat or borrow boats from local rescue agencies (EMS, coast guard, military).

Firefighting in Antarctica

Firefighting in Antarctica encompasses various organizations and procedures designed to fight fires on the continent of Antarctica. Firefighting in Antarctica is complicated by the harsh conditions of the continent, the remoteness of the locations to be serviced, and the importance of protecting life-supporting shelter from immolation.

Greer, South Carolina

Greer is a city in Greenville and Spartanburg counties in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 25,515 as of the 2010 census and had risen to an estimated 28,365 as of 2015. The southern part of the city is in Spartanburg County, while the bulk of the city is in Greenville County. It is part of the Greenville–Anderson–Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is additionally part of the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area in Upstate South Carolina.

Greer is adjacent to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP), which serves Greenville, Spartanburg, and the Upstate. Greer is also the site of the only BMW manufacturing facility in North America. According to a June 2005 article in The Greenville News, BMW's Greer plant employs about 9,000 people, and has attracted dozens of suppliers in South Carolina, providing jobs for more than 12,000 people. Greer is home to the South Carolina Inland Port, an intermodal facility that receives and sends containers by rail to the Port of Charleston.

Houston Fire Department

City of Houston Fire Department (HFD) is the agency that provides fire protection and emergency medical services for the city of Houston, Texas, United States, the fourth largest city in the United States. HFD is responsible for preserving life and property for a population of more than 2 million in an area totaling 654 square miles (1,690 km2). The department is the largest fire department (by number of personnel) in the state of Texas.The administrative offices of HFD are located on the 7th floor of 1801 Smith in Downtown Houston. They were previously located at the City of Houston Fire Department Logistical Center & Maintenance Depot.The Houston Fire Department got its start in 1838 with one station known as Protection Company No. 1. By 1859, the volunteer department had grown to three stations. After 57 years of service, Houston converted the department over to all paid members.

Lockport (city), New York

Lockport is a city and the county seat of Niagara County, New York, surrounded by the town of Lockport. The population was 21,165 at the 2010 census, with an estimated population of 20,480 as of 2016. It is named from a set of Erie Canal locks (Lock Numbers 34 and 35) within the city. It is part of the Buffalo–Niagara Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Los Angeles County Fire Department

The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) provides firefighting and emergency medical services for the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, California, as well as 59 cities, including the city of La Habra which is located in Orange County and is the first city outside of Los Angeles County to contract with LACoFD. As of 2013 the department is responsible for just over 4 million residents spread out in over 1.2 million housing units across an area of 2,305 square miles (5,970 km2). According to Firehouse Magazine which keeps statistics on fire departments across the United States, the LACoFD is the 6th busiest department in the US, behind New York City Fire Department, Chicago Fire Department, Houston Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire Department, and Dallas Fire Department. The Department responded to 389,313 calls for service in 2015. Note about Station 127: This station is famous for the NBC TV Show "Emergency". Some Fire Stations have two engine companies. some engines are Paramedic Engines.The department is commanded by Chief Daryl L. Osby with an annual budget of $1.15 Billion.

Los Angeles Fire Department

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) provides firefighting, rescue and emergency medical services for the city of Los Angeles, California, United States. The LAFD is responsible for approximately 4 million people who live in the agency's 471-square-mile (1,220 km2) jurisdiction.The Los Angeles Fire Department was founded in 1886 and is the third largest municipal fire department in the United States, after the Chicago Fire Department and the New York City Fire Department. The department may be unofficially referred to as the Los Angeles City Fire Department or "LA City Fire" to distinguish it from the Los Angeles County Fire Department which serves the county and whose name may directly confuse people, as the county seat is the city, and the city often borders unincorporated counties and contract cities serviced by LACoFD. The department is currently under the command of Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the seat of Dane County. As of July 1, 2017, Madison's estimated population of 255,214 made it the second-largest city in Wisconsin by population, after Milwaukee, and the 82nd-largest in the United States. The city forms the core of the United States Census Bureau's Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Dane County and neighboring Iowa, Green, and Columbia counties. The Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area's 2010 population was 568,593.

Incorporated as a village in 1846 and chartered as a city in 1856 on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, Madison was named the capital of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836 and became the capital of the state of Wisconsin when it was admitted to the Union in 1848. That same year, the University of Wisconsin was founded in Madison and the state government and university have become the city's two largest employers. The city is also known for its political protests and demonstrations, lakes, restaurants, and extensive network of parks and bike trails, with much of the park system designed by landscape architect John Nolen.

Monroe, Connecticut

Monroe is an affluent town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 19,479 at the 2010 census.Like many of its neighbors, Monroe is largely considered a bedroom community of New York City and Bridgeport. Monroe's neighbors are Easton, Newtown, Oxford, Shelton, and Trumbull.

The New York Times profiled Monroe in February 2013.

New York City Fire Department

The New York City Fire Department, officially the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), is a department of the government of New York City that provides fire protection, technical rescue, primary response to biological, chemical, and radioactive hazards, and emergency medical services to the five boroughs of New York City.

The New York City Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the United States and the second largest in the world after the Tokyo Fire Department. The FDNY employs approximately 11,051 uniformed firefighters and 4,414 uniformed EMTs, paramedics, and fire inspectors. Its regulations are compiled in title 3 of the New York City Rules. The FDNY's motto is New York's Bravest for fire and New York's Best for EMS. The FDNY serves more than 8.5 million residents within a 302 square mile area.The FDNY headquarters is located at 9 MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn, and the FDNY Fire Academy is located on Randalls Island.

Oroville, California

Oroville is the county seat of Butte County, California, United States. The population was 15,506 at the 2010 census, up from 13,004 in the 2000 census. Oroville is considered the gateway to Lake Oroville and Feather River recreational areas. In August 2015, the city of Oroville annexed two areas in South Oroville, which have a combined population of 2,725 people. As of January 1, 2016 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of the city to be 17,996, up 1,908 people or 11.9 percent since 2010. The Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California is headquartered in Oroville.

Oroville is located adjacent to State Route 70, and is in close proximity to State Route 99, which connects Butte County with Interstate 5. The City of Chico, California is located about 22 minutes northwest of the city, and the state capitol of Sacramento lies about an hour due south.

Port Washington, New York

Port Washington is an affluent hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) in Nassau County, New York on the North Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2010 Census, the community population was 15,846.Port Washington is a hamlet within and directly governed by the town of North Hempstead. With rolling hills and a serpentine coastline in the northwest corner of Nassau County, Port Washington is studded with marinas, parks, yacht clubs and golf courses. The Great Neck peninsula is across Manhasset Bay to the west; Manhasset and Plandome are to the south; Roslyn lies southeast. Besides an unincorporated area of the Town of North Hempstead, Port Washington is home to four incorporated villages: Baxter Estates, Manorhaven, Port Washington North and Sands Point, plus part of the village of Flower Hill.

According to Forbes, Port Washington is ranked as the 418th wealthiest place in the United States as of 2017, with a median home sale price of $1,191,865.

Volunteer fire department

A volunteer fire department (VFD) is a fire department composed of volunteers who perform fire suppression and other related emergency services for a local jurisdiction.

Volunteer firefighters contrast with career firefighters, who work full-time and receive a full salary. Some volunteer firefighters may be part of a combination fire department that employs both full-time and volunteer firefighters.In some communities, the definition of a volunteer firefighter includes those who receive no pay for being on call and/or attending emergencies, known in other countries as "retained" firefighters. Volunteer and retained firefighters are expected to be on call to respond to emergency calls for long periods of time, and are summoned to the fire station when their services are needed. They are also expected to attend other non-emergency duties as well (training, fundraising, equipment maintenance, etc.).

Waukegan, Illinois

Waukegan is the largest city in and the county seat of Lake County, Illinois, United States. It is an industrial suburb of the City of Chicago, located 40 miles north of The Loop and 10 miles south of the Wisconsin state border, approximately halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. As of the 2013 United States Census estimate, the city had a population of 88,826, which makes it the ninth most populous city in Illinois. Waukegan is a predominately working-class community with a sizeable middle-class population.

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