Fire stations, also known as firehouses, are located throughout a city or town’s neighborhoods to serve as storage for fire engines and other emergency vehicles. Depending on the size of the fire department, these facilities may also serve as headquarters, administration, and training sites. Additionally, some stations are equipped with ambulances and can be used to transport injured or sick patients.
Most fire stations are large buildings, and their architecture reflects the history of the FDNY’s evolution into a professional organization. In New York City, these stations are typically constructed of brick or stone, and often feature a bell tower, which was traditionally used as a lookout for spotting fires, and a drill tower for practicing high-rise rescues. In addition, many stations are adorned with a flagpole and the FDNY’s distinctive eagle emblem.
Generally speaking, fire stations vary in their design, but they all contain at least some of the following basic features:
At a minimum, a fire station contains a garage or bay for housing the fire engine(s). The structure may also include storage space for hoses and other equipment, though it is often more practical to keep most gear in the vehicles themselves. Fire stations also contain administrative offices, recreation areas, sleeping quarters, and kitchens. They also provide a number of fire prevention and education programs for the public.
In addition, a fire station’s location is based on the type of emergencies it will be called upon to respond to. For instance, airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) stations are located close to runways or flight lines, while hazardous materials response (Haz-Mat) units are usually stationed near potential spill sites.
The FDNY is divided into five borough commands, and each one has its own chief of department. In turn, these commanders each have several deputy chiefs to help run their divisions.
Each of these divisions is further subdivided into four to seven battalions, led by a lead battalion chief. Each battalion has several fire companies, which are made up of firefighters and EMS personnel. For example, Rescue Company 1 is a Manhattan-based company consisting of Engine Company 252, Ladder Company 26 and Marine Company 1, Fireboat Three Forty Three and Marine Company 9, Haz-Mat Unit 1.
In the past, each address in the city was assigned a box number, which was displayed on the FDNY’s fire alarm boxes that once lined street corners and the fronts of certain buildings. Although these boxes are no longer used, each location is still assigned a specific call number by the Bureau of Communications, and the fire station responsible for that box’s area is the one that responds to an emergency.
Fire stations are often open to the general public for tours, but it is important that visitors take all necessary precautions for their safety and the protection of the facility. During tours, fire personnel must accompany the group at all times. Likewise, the Battalion Chief and Station Captain must be notified of all tours, and the tour groups should be limited to public areas such as the Apparatus Bay and the Day Room. Exceptions to this rule are granted only by the FDNY Station Captain and may be subject to change due to emergency calls or other circumstances.