Fire Stations

Fire stations are a very important part of the public safety infrastructure for many cities and towns. They serve a variety of purposes: housing the fire fighting vehicles, providing administrative space and providing training and community services. The number of fire stations in a municipality is usually based on the amount of square mileage served and the need to minimize response times.

A fire station can vary in size and design, depending on the needs of the specific department. Some examples include aircraft rescue firefighting (ARFF) stations located at airports, hazardous materials response stations situated near potential spill sites and shoreline firefighting stations.

The basic structure of a fire station is an apparatus bay with a vehicle maintenance area, which includes a heavy-duty lift and all utility connections required to perform large vehicle maintenance. The vehicle maintenance area is also equipped with a vehicle wash for cleaning and scrubbing the fire fighting vehicles. Administrative areas include standard office space for firefighters and additional spaces designed for specialized functions such as computer training and testing.

Many fire departments have a large number of volunteer or retained firefighters in addition to professional, full time firefighters. These firefighters are called on by sirens or radio/pagers to come to the fire station and take their assigned vehicle to a scene. These fire stations may have very limited amenities such as a case or “trophy wall” where firefighters display their memorabilia from the department.

In the United States, fire stations are often named after a fire company or engine company and may be identified by their number, for example Engine Co. 58. They are sometimes also referred to as firehouses, though that term is more generally used to describe the entire building and not simply the area within which a fire company operates.

A fire station is operated by a battalion and contains one to three fire companies led by a captain and staffed with firefighters and officers. In large cities such as New York, firefighters work 24-hour shifts and are swapped among different tours each week.

Firefighters are trained in various rescue techniques and use equipment for fire suppression and other emergency responses, including water supply, extinguishing fires, searching for victims and making hydrants available to the public. They also spend a great deal of time training and conducting inspections and other duties on the job.

In order to be eligible for a firefighter position, candidates must pass physical and psychological tests. In addition, they are required to attend regular fire school courses, which can include classes on fire science and technology, hazardous materials response and firefighting tactics. The job requires an extremely high level of responsibility and commitment, and a firefighter must be willing to make personal sacrifices in the name of his or her career. A firefighter’s life can be physically demanding, as well, with long shifts, strenuous activity and the need to travel to scenes of emergencies. These factors have contributed to the increased attention being paid by some fire departments to improving their firefighter quality of life.

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