If you aspire to become a firefighter, it would benefit you to know a little bit about the basic organization of a modern fire department.

You already know a fire department (or similar names around the world) is an organization that provides firefighting services for a specific location.  However, did you know that from time to time, they may be called out to areas outside of their geographic zone to help other fire departments?

Most fire departments are public organizations that operate within a municipality, county, state, nation, or special district. There are also private and specialist firefighting organizations, such as those at airports.  In many places this also means you are a public servant. In other words, you would serve your organization best if you don’t make your fire department look bad in the public eye.

Fire departments contain one or more fire stations within its boundaries, and may be staffed by paid or volunteer firefighters or both.

Of course the fire stations themselves are the structures for storing firefighting apparatus, such as fire engines and related vehicles, personal protective equipment, fire hoses and other specialized equipment. Fire stations frequently contain working and living space for the firefighters and support staff.   For many firefighters, it’s their second home.


In addition to putting out fires, fire departments may also provide fire prevention services. In such instances, firefighters visit local homes and/or organizations and provide fire safety information.  If you’re a person who enjoys people and educating others, this may be an enjoyable role.

Fire departments also employ Fire Investigators, who determine the origin and cause of a fire or explosion, after it has been extinguished.  These are also guys/gals who really know their fire science.

In some places, such as large US cities, it is common for the fire department to run the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) to treat illnesses and injuries that require an urgent medical response. This may also include providing out-of-hospital treatment and transport to definitive care. Fire departments that provide EMS require more frequent call-outs than solely firefighting. In other words, if you don’t like helping hurt or injured individuals, this may not be a job you will you enjoy.


Fire departments may be organized with a system of administration, services, training, and operations.  For example:

  • 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 most prominent tasks to successfully save the public from harm, such as putting out fires and EMS


A fire service is normally set up where it can have fire stations and sophisticated fire engines strategically deployed throughout the area it serves.  This way 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.

Besides responding to fires, fire departments also respond to a variety of emergencies such as hazardous materials situations, floods and structural collapses. They may also have urban search and rescue units.

Another part of your job that may not be as well publicized is that you’ll be cleaning.  Cleaning the equipment, trucks and fire station.

In most modern fire departments, you’ll be busy all the time, even when you’re not fighting fires.

The Modern Fire Department
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