Fire stations are a vital component of a city’s fire service. They store and house specialized equipment for firefighters and serve as a meeting place and home for fire department personnel. They also function as emergency response centers for residents to call to report fires or other emergencies. The Fire Department of New York, or FDNY, has numerous strategically placed fire stations throughout the five boroughs.
Fire station structures vary in size and design, but they generally include areas for parking and storage of fire fighting equipment, vehicle maintenance bays, and residential living quarters. Some fire stations have dining facilities, which may double as conference rooms and training spaces for firefighters. Many stations have a dormitory, which contains sleeping facilities for firefighters on shift. These spaces are usually located above the garage within two story buildings. Firefighters access the garage by means of a staircase, ladder or pole if needed during an alarm.
In addition to storage and living areas, fire stations typically contain administrative offices and dispatch facilities. They may have a conference room and computer training and testing spaces for fire fighters. Administrative spaces are necessary to support the overall functioning of a fire department, including dispatch services, administrative records, and training.
A fire station is also the center of a community, and is often used for public events. Some stations host fundraisers, such as pancake breakfasts organized by local firemen’s associations and other volunteer groups. They may also hold children’s programs during fire prevention week and pass out candy on Halloween. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, many firefighters worked a 24-hour shift at their fire stations. Some even continued their shifts, swapping days off with other firehouse personnel under a system known as “mutuals.”
The FDNY has three distinct types of emergency vehicles: engine trucks, ladder trucks, and hazmat vehicles. Each type of vehicle has a unique set of tools and a specialized skill set. Firefighters will respond to an emergency with the most appropriate type of vehicle, after a call comes in to 911 and the Officer in Charge (OIC) is informed of the incident. The OIC will then determine whether to respond via a verbal call, a visual signal, or both.
Some stations have a brush unit, which is a four-wheel-drive vehicle equipped to reach hilly or marshy areas to extinguish grass or wildfires. Brush units also carry fire fighting equipment, such as rakes and shovels, to remove brush and other debris from the scene of a fire.
The FDNY has more than 200 firehouses in the five boroughs. Many of these historic structures are imposing, towering facades with beautiful exterior finishes and sweeping architectural designs. They are a welcome sight to visitors to the borough, and they seamlessly blend into New York’s diverse skyline. Most have a stately entrance with beautifully crafted arches, colossal columns and eye-catching weather vanes that welcome both firefighters on shift and the general public. The entrances are a symbol of the majesty and honor that is part of the tradition of the FDNY.