A fire station (also known as a firehouse or fire hall) is a building where fire engines and other equipment are stored. Fire stations may be staffed by full-time firefighters, part-time firefighters or volunteer firefighters. Fire stations also typically contain offices, living areas, kitchens and training facilities for firefighters.
A typical fire station includes an apparatus bay where firefighting vehicles are stored, usually arranged around a central vehicle maintenance area. This is where the vehicles are cleaned and maintained by full-time or volunteer firefighters. The vehicle maintenance area usually includes a heavy-duty lift for servicing large trucks and other equipment. The facility may also include a garage for storing fire engines and other emergency response vehicles.
Most modern fire stations are staffed by full-time firefighters. However, a fire station may also have rooms for part-time and volunteer firefighters who live in the facility while on duty. In some places, volunteer firefighters are used to assist the paid department in sparsely populated areas. The professionalization of firefighting in the late 19th century led to the gradual replacement of volunteer fire departments by paid companies.
The responsibilities of firefighting professionals are diverse and require an equally diverse set of tools and skills. They include rescue and firefighting techniques, firefighting equipment inspection, repair and maintenance, administrative duties, public outreach and education and fire prevention activities. Firefighters must be able to perform the duties of their jobs in all kinds of weather, and they must be able to respond quickly to calls for help from their community.
Some of the most important functions performed at a fire station include rescue, extrication, hazardous material incident support and hazmat response. The rescue aspect of the job involves removing people from dangerous situations such as burning buildings, trenches and confined spaces using specialized rescue equipment such as hydraulic spreaders and Jaws of Life. Extrication refers to the removal of injured or trapped people from automobiles and other vehicles, or from structures such as airplanes and ships.
Other common tasks at a fire station are inspection, cleaning and maintaining the fire apparatus and other vehicles and preparing for training drills. Occasionally, firefighters give tours of the fire station to schoolchildren and the general public, and they participate in fire safety events and educational activities. Some of the fire departments have auxiliary groups that raise funds for their fire stations and conduct fire prevention activities.
A number of television shows and movies have depicted the lives of firefighting personnel and their daily routines at a fire station. The 2002 film Brotherhood follows the members of Engine 7/Ladder Company 1 in the FDNY, and the Sesame Street video Elmo Visits the Firehouse shows him getting a tour of the station and learning how to “get low and go”. The name of a fire station is often based on the fire engine or other piece of equipment that is housed there. Fire stations in large cities are often named for the engine number, while smaller stations are typically named after the town or district they serve.