New York City Fire Department

Fire Department
of the City of New York

"New York's Bravest"
EMS Motto: "New York's Best"[1]
Operational area
Country  United States
State  New York
City New York City
Agency overview
Established July 31, 1865 (1865-07-31)
(origins go back to 1648)
Annual calls

For 2013:[2]

  • FDNY Total Call Volume: 479,228
  • Structural fires: 25,097
  • Non-fire emergencies: 197,138
  • Medical emergencies: 222,879
  • FDNY EMS Total Call Volume: 1,309,811

15,629 (2013)[2]

  • Uniformed Fire: 10,241
  • Uniformed EMS: 3,621
  • Civilian: 1,767
Staffing Career
Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro
EMS level CFR-D, BLS & ALS
IAFF 94 & 854
Facilities and equipment
Divisions 10
Battalions 53
Stations 255 (Including 34 EMS Stations and 3 Fireboat Stations)
Engines 198
Trucks 143
Squads 7
Rescues 5
Ambulances 234 (Morning and Evening)
146 (Overnight)
Wildland 10
Fireboats 3 Year round, 6 seasonal
Official website

The New York City Fire Department, officially the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), is a department of the government of New York City[3] that provides fire protection, technical rescue, primary response to biological, chemical and radioactive hazards, and emergency medical services to the five boroughs of New York City.

The New York City Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the United States and the second largest in the world after the Tokyo Fire Department. The FDNY employs approximately 10,200 uniformed firefighters and over 3,940 uniformed EMTs, paramedics, and Fire Inspectors. Its regulations are compiled in title 3 of the New York City Rules. The FDNY's motto is New York's Bravest. The FDNY serves more than 8 million residents within a 320 square mile area.[4]

The FDNY headquarters is located at 9 MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn,[5] and the FDNY Fire Academy is located on Randalls Island.[6] There are Three Bureau of Fire Communications alarm offices which receive and dispatch alarms to appropriate units. One office, at 11 Metrotech Center in Brooklyn, houses Citywide, Brooklyn, and Staten Island Fire Communications. The Bronx houses Manhattan and the Bronx, and Queens houses Queens. The Bronx and Queens offices are in separate buildings, and plans are in the works to consolidate them into a single building to be constructed in the future.


An FDNY deputy chief during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Like most fire departments of major cities in the United States, the New York City Fire Department is organized in a paramilitary fashion, and in many cases echos the structure of the police department.[7] The department's executive staff is divided into two areas that include a civilian Fire Commissioner who serves as the head of the department and a Chief of Department who serves as the operational leader. The current Fire Commissioner is Daniel A. Nigro, who recently took over the position from Salvatore J. Cassano in June 2014. The executive staff includes several civilian fire commissioners who are responsible for the many different bureaus within the department, along with the Chief of Department, the Chief of Fire Operations, the Chief of EMS, the Chief Fire Marshal, and other staff chiefs. Staff chiefs include the seven citywide tour commanders, the Chief of Safety, the Chief of Fire Prevention, and the Chief of Training.[8]

Operationally and geographically, the department is nominally organized into five Borough Commands for the five traditional Boroughs of New York City. Within those five Borough Commands exists nine firefighting Divisions, each headed by a Deputy Division Chief. Within each Division are four to seven Battalions, each led by a Battalion Chief. Each Battalion consists of three to eight firehouses and consists of approximately 180–200 firefighters and officers. Each firehouse consists of one to three fire companies. Each fire company is led by a captain, who commands three lieutenants and nine to twenty firefighters. There are currently four shifts of firefighters in each company. Tours can be either night tours (6 p.m. - 9 a.m.) or day tours (9 a.m. - 6 p.m.). In one tour or shift, each company is commanded by a lieutenant or the captain and is made up of three to five firefighters, depending on the type of fire company/unit: an Engine Company is staffed by an officer and three to four firefighters; a Ladder Company is staffed by an officer and five firefighters; a Rescue Company is staffed by an officer and five firefighters; a Squad Company is staffed by an officer and five firefighters; a Marine Company is staffed by an officer and four firefighters; the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company is staffed by an officer and six firefighters.

The FDNY faces highly multifaceted firefighting challenges in many ways unique to New York. In addition to responding to building types that range from wood-frame single family homes to high-rise structures, there are many secluded bridges and tunnels, the New York City Subway system, as well as large parks and wooded areas that can give rise to brush fires.

The FDNY also responds to many other incidents such as auto accidents, auto extrications, gas emergencies, entrapments, construction accidents, high-angle rescues, trench rescues, confined space incidents, explosions, transit incidents, unstable buildings or collapses, hazardous material incidents and many more.



Mid 19th century Chief

The origins of the New York City Fire Department go back to 1648 when the first fire ordinance was adopted in what was then the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam. Peter Stuyvesant, within one year of his arrival, appointed four fire wardens to wooden chimneys of thatched-roofed wooden houses, charging a penalty to owners whose chimneys were improperly swept. The first four fire wardens were Martin Krieger, Thomas Hall, Adrian Wyser, and George Woolsey.[9]

First firefighting reservoir, behind school, 1831

Hooks, ladders and buckets were financed through the collection of fines for dirty chimneys, and a fire watch was established, consisting of eight wardens which were drawn from the male population. An organization known as the prowlers but given the nickname the rattle watch patrolled the streets with buckets, ladders and hooks from nine in the evening until dawn looking for fires. Leather shoe buckets, 250 in all, were manufactured by local Dutch shoemakers in 1658, and these bucket brigades are regarded as the beginning of the New York Fire Department.[10]

In 1664 New Amsterdam became an English settlement and was renamed New York.[11] The first New York fire brigade entered service in 1731 equipped with two hand-drawn pumpers which had been transported from London, England. These two pumpers formed Engine Company 1 and Engine Company 2. These were the first fire engines to be used in the American colonies, and all able-bodied citizens were required to respond to a fire alarm and to participate in the extinguishing under the supervision of the Aldermen.[12]

The city's first firehouse was built in 1736 in front of City Hall on Broad Street. A year later, on December 16, 1737, the colony's General Assembly created the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York, appointing 30 men who would remain on call in exchange for exemption from jury and militia duty. The city's first official firemen were required to be "able, discreet, and sober men who shall be known as Firemen of the City of New York, to be ready for service by night and by day and be diligent, industrious and vigilant."[12]

Although the 1737 Act created the basis of the fire department, the actual legal entity was incorporated in the State of New York on March 20, 1798 under the name of "Fire Department, City of New York."


Original sheet celebrating the official formation of the Metropolitan Fire Department, 1866

In 1865, the volunteer fire department was abolished by a state act which created the Metropolitan Fire District and the Metropolitan Fire Department (MFD). This effectively gave control of the fire departments in the cities of New York and Brooklyn to the Governor who appointed his Board of Commissioners. There was never any effective incorporation of the fire departments of the two cities during this period. It wasn't until the Greater City of New York was consolidated in 1898 that the two were combined under one common organization or organizational structure. The change met with a mixed reaction from the citizens, and some of the eliminated volunteers became bitter and resentful, which resulted in both political battles and street fights. The insurance companies in the city, however, finally won the battle and had the volunteers replaced with paid professionals. The members of the paid fire department were primarily selected from the prior volunteers. All of the volunteer's apparatus, including their fire houses, were seized by the state who made use of them to form the new organization and form the basis of the current FDNY. The MFD lasted until 1870 when the Tweed Charter ended state control in the city. As a result, a new Board of Fire Commissioners was created and the original name of the Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) was reinstated.

Battalion Chief John J. Bresnan (left) answering a call in 1887. While leading men into a building fire in 1894, Bresnan became trapped and suffocated when a roof collapsed. It was stated: “no braver, abler or more conscientious man than John J. Bresnan ever drew a paycheck in the service of the City of New York.”[13]

Initially, the paid fire service only covered present day Manhattan, until the act of 1865 which united Brooklyn with Manhattan to form the Metropolitan District. The same year the fire department consisted of 13 Chief Officers and 552 Company Officers and firemen. The officers and firemen worked a continuous tour of duty, with three hours a day off for meals and one day off a month, and were paid salaries according to their rank or grade. 1865 also saw the first adoption of regulations, although they were fairly strict and straitlaced. Following several large fires in 1866 which resulted in excessive fire losses and a rise in insurance rates, the fire department was reorganized under the command of General Alexander Shaler, and with military discipline the paid department reached its full potential which resulted in a general reduction in fire losses. In 1870 the merit system of promotion in the Fire Department was established. Southwestern Westchester County (which would later become the western Bronx) was annexed by New York in 1874 and the volunteers there were phased out and replaced by the paid department. This pattern was repeated as City services expanded elsewhere.


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911
Traditional FDNY Truck

On January 1, 1898 the different areas of New York were consolidated, which ushered the Fire Department into a new era. All the fire forces in the various sections were brought under the unified command of the first Commissioner in the history of the Fire Department. This same year Richmond (now Staten Island) became a part of the City of New York, but the volunteer units there remained in place until they were gradually replaced by paid units in 1915, 1928, 1932 and 1937 when only two volunteer units remained, Oceanic Hook & Ladder Vol Engine and Richmond Fire. In 1976 a third volunteer fire company, Metro Fire Association Volunteer Fire Company was given a charter to operate within Staten Island and with an old 1954 Ward LaFrance Fire Apparatus began to respond to emergencies in Staten Island.

The unification of the Fire Department, which took place in 1898, would pave the way for many changes. In 1909 the Fire Department received its first piece of motorized fire apparatus. On March 25, 1911 a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company killed 146 workers, most of whom were young female immigrants. Later the same year the fire college was formed to train new fire fighters, and in 1912 the Bureau of Fire Prevention was created.

In 1919 the Uniformed Firefighters Association was formed. Tower ladders and the SuperPumper System were introduced in 1965. Major apparatus of the SuperPumper System (the SuperPumper and the SuperTender) was phased out in 1982, in favor of the Maxi-Water Unit. But the 5 Satellite Units of the system, together with the Maxi-Water Unit (known as Satellite 6 since 1999) are still actively used as of 2007 for multiple alarm fires and certain other incidents. These are now called the Satellite Water System. Other technical advances included the introduction of high pressure water systems, the creation of a Marine fleet, adoption of vastly improved working conditions and the utilization of improved radio communications.

On November 23, 1965, incoming Mayor Lindsay announced the appointment of Robert O. Lowery as Fire Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department. His was the first commissioner level appointment announced by the Mayor-elect. Lowery, who was the first African American to serve as a Fire Commissioner of a major U.S. city, served in that position for more than 7 years until his resignation on September 29, 1973 in order to campaign for then-Controller Abraham D. Beame, the Democratic candidate for Mayor.[14] In 1982 the first female firefighters joined the ranks of the Fire Department.

The Manhattan quarters of FDNY Ladder Company 8, also known as the Ghostbuster's Firehouse

In 1984 and 1989, the comedy films Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II used the Manhattan Ladder Company 8 building for the externals of the Ghostbusters' office building. On March 17, 1996, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani merged the emergency medical services of the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation into the FDNY.

September 11, 2001 attacks

A New York City firefighter looks up at what remains of the World Trade Center after its collapse during the September 11 attacks

On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were hijacked by terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda and flown into the World Trade Center's North and South Towers, respectively, causing massive damage to both towers during impact, and starting fires that caused the weakened 110-story skyscrapers to collapse.[15]

FDNY fire companies and EMS crews were deployed to the World Trade Center minutes after Flight 11 struck the north tower. Chief officers set up a command center in the lobby as first arriving units entered the tower and firefighters began climbing the stairs. A mobile command center was also set up outside on Vesey Street, but was destroyed when the towers collapsed. A command post was then set up at a firehouse in Greenwich Village. The FDNY deployed 121 Engine Companies, 62 Truck Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 6 Squad Companies, 27 Chief Officers, along with many other units to the site, with more than 1,000 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics on the scene when the towers collapsed.[16][17]

A New York City Deputy chief fire coordinates the recovery effort underway at the World Trade Center

Many firefighters arrived at the World Trade Center without meeting at the command centers. Problems with radio communication caused commanders to lose contact with many of the firefighters who went into the towers; those firefighters were unable to hear evacuation orders.[18] There was practically no communication with the New York City Police Department, which had helicopters at the scene. When the towers collapsed, hundreds were killed or trapped within. 343 FDNY firefighters who responded to the attacks lost their lives. The fatalities included First Deputy Commissioner William M. Feehan, Chief of Department Peter Ganci[17] Department Chaplain Mychal Judge,[19] Battalion Chief Orio Palmer and Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca.[20][21][22] Hundreds of firefighter funerals were held in the weeks to follow, including 16 in one day on Saturday, September 29, 2001.[23]

Meanwhile, average response times to fires elsewhere in the city that day only rose by one minute, to 5.5 minutes.[24] Many of the surviving firefighters continued to work alternating 24-hour shifts as part of the rescue and recovery effort. Firefighters and EMS personnel came from hundreds of miles around New York City, including numerous career and volunteer units in Upstate New York, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and even Michigan.


A typical New York City firehouse. Pictured is the Brooklyn quarters of Engine Co. 205 and Ladder Co. 118, depicting a mural dedicated to firefighters lost on 9/11.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Fire Department has rebuilt itself and continues to serve the people of New York. During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, FDNY was called on to rescue hundreds of people from stranded elevators in approximately 800 Manhattan high-rise office and apartment buildings. The entire fire department was held over from the day tour to almost double the total force to 3,401 firefighters to handle the many fires which resulted, reportedly from people using candles for light.[25]

At the beginning of the 21st century, there are 11,400 uniformed fire officers and firefighters under the command of the Chief of Department. The New York City Fire Department also includes 2800 Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics and Supervisors assigned to Department's EMS Command, and 1200 civilian employees.[10]

Daniel A. Nigro is the current commissioner of the FDNY. He was appointed to this job by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio in June 2014.[26]

Ideology and core competencies

A typical FDNY Haz-Tac. Ambulance
A typical FDNY EMS station

The FDNY derives its name from the Tweed Charter which created the Fire Department of the City of New York. This is in contrast to most other fire departments in the U.S. where the name of the city precedes the words fire department.[27]


Together with ambulances run by certain participating hospitals (locally known as voluntaries, not to be confused with volunteers) and private companies, it is known as the FDNY EMS Command, which is the largest pre-hospital care provider in the world, responding to over 1.5 million calls each year. All of the FDNY EMS Command members are also trained to the HAZMAT Operations level. A select group of 39 EMS units (18 BLS & 21 ALS) are known as Hazardous Material Tactical Units (Haz-Tac Ambulances) whose members are trained to the level of Hazardous Materials Technician which allows them to provide emergency medical care and decontamination in a hazardous environment, in addition to their normal 911 duties. Of these 39, eleven are also Rescue Paramedic Ambulances whose crews are additionally trained for: Confined space rescue, Trench Rescue, Crush Injuries, and Building Collapse Rescues. The Rescue Medics operate with additional exclusive protocols and specialized medical equipment.[31]

Core competencies

A fire department sprinkler siamese connection in Manhattan

A citywide Incident Management System plan released by the Office of the Mayor on May 14, 2004 set forth several "core competencies" which determine which agency has the authority to direct operations.[32] FDNY core competencies include:


The FDNY Brooklyn Communications Dispatch Office
The FDNY Queens Communications Dispatch Office in Woodhaven, Queens

As of 2010 there are three Bureau of Fire Communications Dispatch Offices: 11 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn; 1120 E. 180th St., Bronx; 83-98 Woodhaven Blvd., Queens. 11 Metrotech Center houses the Citywide, Brooklyn, and Staten Island Communications Dispatch Offices. The Bronx houses Manhattan and the Bronx, and Queens houses Queens. The Bronx and Queens offices are in separate buildings, and plans are in the works to consolidate them into a single building to be constructed in the future

An initial call to an FDNY Communications Dispatch Office is taken by the Alarm Receipt Dispatcher (ARD) who speaks with the caller in order to determine the nature of the emergency. The ARD enters the information by keyboard into the Starfire computer system, which gives a recommended fire department resource response based on the information provided. This information is automatically sent to the Decision Dispatcher (DD) and the "Tour Supervising Dispatcher" (TSD).

When the Decision Dispatcher has made a decision as to what units will actually be assigned to the incident, unless the supervisor intervenes, he or she pushes the "release" button and the alarm is routed to the assigned companies, both in their respective firehouses and to the individual mobile data terminals (MDT) of each company's apparatus when it is in the field, depending on where the Starfire computer shows them to be situated. If a company/unit in a firehouse does not acknowledge the run within 30 seconds, the computer will notify the Voice Alarm Dispatcher (VAD), who will call that unit via radio in their firehouse by the dedicated intercom system. One minute after the alarm is released, it will appear on the computer screen of the radio dispatcher (Radio), who will announce the alarm and the response two times and ask for acknowledgment from any companies assigned who have not done so by radio, voice alarm or MDT. The radio dispatcher has a special keyboard called the Status Entry Panel (SEP), which is used to update the status of units based on information received by radio.

The entire process from initial notification until a unit is dispatched can take up to two (2) minutes, depending on the complexity of the call, the information provided by the caller(s) and the degree of other alarm activity in the office. If a dispatch office is so busy that its incoming telephone alarm lines are all busy or not answered within 30 seconds, the call is automatically transferred to another borough dispatch office. If an Emergency Reporting System (ERS) street fire alarm box is not answered with 60 seconds, usually because all of the alarm receipt consoles are in use, the computer automatically dispatches an engine company to the location of the physical street fire alarm box.

Any communications dispatch office in the city can take a fire or emergency call by telephone for any borough and upon completion of information taking, the incident will automatically be routed by the Starfire computer to the Decision Dispatcher (DD) for the borough in which the incident is reported.

Fire Dispatch has a minimum staffing (Staffing Level 1) which consist of 1 Chief Dispatcher who supervises 5 Tour Supervising Dispatchers (1 in each Borough). The TSUs supervise's between 4 and 8 Dispatchers depending on Borough and Time/Day. The minimum staffing may be increased based on many variables such as an inoridnary increase in volume of incidents, a catastrophic event, in preparation of a storm and during large events.

Alarm receipt and transmittal

The Firemen's Memorial, a monument to the heroes of the Fire Department in Manhattan

There are four ways in which fires and emergencies can be reported to the New York City Fire Department: Telephone Alarms; Fire Alarm Boxes; "Class 3" Alarms; Verbal Alarms.

When a member of the public dials 911, he or she is connected to a police department operator who assigns the call to where it needs to go based on the information provided.

Fire alarm dispatchers handle comparatively few medical calls made directly to them, since the vast majority of such incidents are routed straight to the FDNY's EMS communications office by the NYPD 9-1-1 operators. However, a medical call that requires the assistance of "first-responder"-trained fire units will have said request routed electronically to the appropriate fire alarm central office for the assignment of the proper personnel and apparatus.

Box numbers

Each address in the city is assigned a box number, based on the closest street, special building or highway box. The term "box" refers to the Fire Alarm Boxes, which at one time lined street corners and in front of certain buildings. Each Fire Alarm Box was given a specific number by the FDNY's Bureau of Communications. Even if the physical fire alarm box is no longer at a specific address or street corner, the address or street corner is still assigned that fire alarm box's number. Box numbers can be duplicated in different boroughs, which is why they are always identified by borough name or numerical prefix on the computer (66 for Bronx and Manhattan, 77 for Brooklyn, 88 for Staten Island and 99 for Queens). If there is also a street address given to the dispatchers, the responding apparatus will get this information in the firehouse, over the air, and via their mobile data terminals in the rigs, in addition to the Box number. At present there are about 16,000 physical fire alarm street boxes in New York City, with many additional special building boxes and highway boxes, as well as "dummy boxes" used for special response assignments. In addition there are two airport crash boxes, one in the LaGuardia Tower, (Queens Box 37), and one in the JFK Tower, (Queens Box 269), which can only be activated by the personnel in these towers. When either box is sounded it brings an automatic second alarm (2–2) response of equipment, along with various special units.

Critical Information Dispatch System

Critical Information Dispatch System (CIDS, pronounced by the dispatcher as "Sids") information is transmitted to units in the firehouse and en route. It is information that is collected on a building during inspections and by public input, which would affect fire-fighting operations, for example:

This information is printed on the fire ticket and can be read by the dispatcher if requested. This information is also read automatically when a signal 10–75 (working fire) or higher signal is given or when the supervising dispatcher deems it is important for the units to have it before arrival at an incident.

Radio and Bell Code Signals

The New York City Fire Department utilizes a system of ten-code radio signals as well as an internal one involving "bell codes" (...tracing their origin to the days when coded telegraph signals were sent over a closed, wired system within the Department...) to transmit and relay information involving both emergency communications and general, Departmental operations. There are 55 "10-codes" used by the Department.[33] There are also sub-codes specific to some of them. The FDNY is currently one of the last, large fire departments in the country using "10-Codes" as opposed to "plain English" to communicate information by radio.

Signal Meaning
1–1 1st Alarm Response Transmitted "Box after Initial" (Upon additional information or sources received at dispatch operations, dispatchers will fill the optimum assignment compared to the minimum response. Response Assignment varies depending on the nature of the reported emergency. This is not a signal that there is a working fire or emergency, A "10-75" or Signal 7-5 (announced as an "All Hands") used by a responding unit or chief is confirmation of a fire or emergency)
2-2 2nd Alarm announcement and response.
3 Indicating an alarm originating in a special FDNY Alarm Box (8000 series boxes).
3-3 3rd Alarm announcement and response.
4 Battalion Chief response required.
4-4 4th Alarm announcement and response.
5 Engine Company response required.
5-5 5th Alarm announcement and response.
5–7 1 Engine Company and 1 Ladder Company response required.
5-5-5-5 Line of Duty Death (LODD), Flags lowered to half staff.
6 Marine Company response required.
6-5-2 Department message.
6-6 Preliminary Signal for the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx. (The Box number following the preliminary signal will determine the Borough ; Manhattan and the Bronx do not have the same Street Box numbers.)
7 Ladder Company response required.
7-5 All-Hands announcement "All hands going to work (or operating)". This is a signal that is given by a Chief which indicates that at least 3 Engines and 2 Ladder Companies are (or will be) operating at a scene of a confirmed emergency. This requires the assignment of an additional Engine Company, A "FAST" (Firefighter Assist and Search Team) Company, an additional Battalion Chief, A Squad Company, A Rescue Company and A "RAC" (Recuperation and Care Unit".
7-7 Preliminary Signal for the Borough of Brooklyn.
8 Squad Company response required.
8-8 Preliminary Signal for the Borough of Staten Island.
9 Preliminary report for Special Units.
9-9 Preliminary Signal for the Borough of Queens.
10 Rescue Company response required.
14 Battalion Chief relocation or returning from relocation.
15 Engine Company relocation or returning from relocation.
16 Marine Company relocation or returning from relocation.
17 Ladder Company relocation or returning from relocation.

Fire companies

A typical FDNY Engine Company, also known as a Pumper or Rig. Pictured is Engine Co. 34, quartered in Manhattan.
A typical FDNY Ladder Company, also known as a Truck. Pictured is an Aerial Ladder Truck operated by Ladder Co. 4, quartered in Manhattan.
A Tower Ladder is another type of Truck operated by the FDNY. Pictured is a Tower Ladder Truck operated by Ladder Co. 149, quartered in Brooklyn.
A Tiller or Tractor-Drawn Aerial Ladder is another type of Ladder Truck operated by the FDNY. Pictured is a Tiller Ladder Truck operated by Ladder Co. 5, quartered in Manhattan.
A typical FDNY Rescue Company, also known as a Rescue Truck. Pictured is Rescue Co. 1, which serves a large portion of Manhattan.
Marine Company 1, Fireboat Three Forty Three, quartered on the Hudson River, and Marine Company 9, Fireboat Firefighter II, quartered in New York Harbor.
Haz-Mat. Company 1, quartered in Queens, responds to all major hazardous materials-related calls city-wide.
Haz-Mat. Company 1's second piece of apparatus, which carries additional equipment and responds to all calls with the main apparatus.
Eagle insignia on an FDNY rig, 1974. Photo by Danny Lyon.

The New York City Fire Department is made up of fire companies, similar to military companies of men and women. Each fire company operates a single type of Fire apparatus and has four shifts of firefighters and company officers. Each company responds to emergency calls from one of the city's 217 firehouses.

There are currently six different types of fire companies in the New York Fire Department which all operate distinct types of apparatus: 198 Engine Companies, 143 Ladder (or Truck) Companies, 5 Rescue Companies, 7 Squad Companies, 3 Marine (or Fireboat) Companies, and the Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company. In addition to these six types of fire companies, there are numerous other specialized units that are operated by the Special Operations Command (S.O.C.), the Haz-Mat. Division, and the Marine Division. Each fire company has a specific role at the scene of an emergency.

Each type of fire company utilizes a certain type of fire apparatus, colloquially known as "rigs".

Engine companies

FDNY Engine Companies are tasked with securing a water supply from a fire hydrant, then extinguishing a fire. The apparatus of an Engine is known as a Pumper Truck and carries a pump (usually 1,000-2,000 gallons per minute), a water tank (usually 500 gallons), fire hoses of varying diameters (usually 1 3/4", 2 1/2", 3 1/2" and 4") in 50' lengths, emergency medical supplies, ground extension ladders, and an assortment of tools.

Ladder companies

FDNY Ladder Companies (also known as Truck Companies) are tasked with search and rescue, forcible entry, and ventilation at the scene of a fire. A Ladder Company can operate three types of Ladder Trucks: an Aerial Ladder Truck, equipped with a 100' aerial ladder mounted at the rear of the apparatus; a Tower Ladder Truck, equipped with either a 75' or 95' telescoping boom and bucket mounted in the center of the apparatus; a Tractor Drawn Aerial Ladder Truck, or Tiller/Tractor Trailer, equipped with a 100' aerial ladder. A Ladder Company carries various forcible entry, ventilation, and rescue tools to deal with an assortment of fires and emergencies, including motor vehicle accidents.

Rescue companies

FDNY Rescue Companies are composed of the elite, highly and specially trained, most experienced members of the New York Fire Department. A Rescue Company is tasked with responding to and dealing with specialized fire and rescue incidents that are beyond the scope and duties of a standard Engine or Ladder Company. Rescue Companies operate Rescue Trucks, colloquially known as "tool boxes on wheels", which carry a wide variety of specialized tools and equipment to aide in operations at technical rescues, collapse/confined space rescues, water/dive rescues, high-angle/below-grade rescues, etc. They respond to all fires within their response district as well.

Squad companies

FDNY Squad Companies are also composed of specially trained firefighters of the New York Fire Department. Squad Companies were initially established by the FDNY to serve as "manpower companies" to supplement the manpower and operations of Engine and Ladder Companies. Today, Squad Companies can function as either Engine or Ladder Companies at the scene of a fire, but are also equipped with similar equipment and specialized tools as the Rescue Company. In particular, members of a Squad Company are highly trained in mitigating hazardous materials (Haz-Mat) incidents, supplementing the FDNY's single Haz-Mat Company. Squad Companies also operate a small step van as a second piece of apparatus in response to Haz-Mat incidents.

Marine companies

FDNY Marine Companies are the New York Fire Department's fireboats and are tasked with SCUBA/dive rescue and off-land firefighting in New York's rivers and harbors. The FDNY's three Marine Companies operate large fireboats and smaller, secondary rescue boats to respond to various marine-related emergencies.

Hazardous materials company

The FDNY Hazardous Materials (Haz-Mat) Company, Haz-Mat 1 (quartered in Queens), responds to all major city-wide hazardous materials incidents, building collapses, contamination-related incidents, terrorism-related disasters, major emergencies, and a variety of other incidents in which their services may be needed. Like the Rescue and Squad Companies of the FDNY, members of Haz-Mat Company 1 are experienced and specially trained to deal with hazardous situations. The Haz-Mat Company operates a Haz-Mat Truck, similar to a Rescue Truck, which carries a variety of equipment to deal with hazardous situations. Haz-Mat. 1 also operates a smaller Rescue Truck which carries extra equipment not carried on the company's main piece of apparatus. The Haz-Mat Company is supplemented by the Squad Companies primarily, the Rescue Companies, and a handful of Engine Companies whose members are certified Haz-Mat Technicians. These Engine Companies, like the Squad Companies, also operate smaller step vans that carry Haz-Mat equipment.

Apparatus manufacturers

In recent years, FDNY has used several fire apparatus manufacturers nearly exclusively. Beginning in the late 1970s, Mack and American LaFrance made most of the pumpers and ladder trucks in the FDNY fleet. In the late 1980s, Mack made only chassis and not apparatus bodies, so Ward was used for truck bodies. Often Mack would work with Baker Aerialscope to create its tower ladders. Mack left the fire apparatus business in the early 1990s and FDNY turned to Seagrave to develop its next generation of fire trucks. FDNY's very specific specifications meant that few apparatus manufacturers could compete with Seagrave for the contract.

Most of the Engine Companies in FDNY's fleet are Seagrave Commander II's and Seagrave Marauder II's and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1,000 or 2,000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2,000 gpm pumps are primarily located in the high-rise districts and are considered high pressure pumpers. With the loss of apparatus which occurred as a result of the September 11 attacks, FDNY began to use engines made by other companies including Ferrara, KME and E-One. The FDNY is making the move from a fixed cab to a "Split-Tilt" cab, so the Seagrave Marauder II Pumper will fill the FDNY's new order for 69 new pumpers. In 2014, FDNY went to KME for an order of 97 pumpers over the next few years. The new KME pumpers feature the split tilt cab and are also high pressure pumpers. As of January 2015, All future pumper orders will be ordered from KME. Seagrave will no longer make the split tilt cab, high pressure pumpers for the FDNY.

Ladder Companies are generally equipped with Seagrave aerials. Ladder length varies and often depends on the geographic area to which the unit is assigned. Those in the older sections of the city often use tiller trucks to allow for greater maneuverability. Before Seagrave was the predominant builder, Mack CF's built with Baker tower ladders were popular. Most FDNY aerials are built with 75’, 95' or 100' ladders. Tiller ladders, rear mount ladders and mid-mount tower ladders are the types of trucks used. In 2010, The FDNY chose Ferrara over Pierce, and E-One for a new contract that issued for 10–100' rear-mount ladder trucks, using a chassis and stainless steel cab custom-designed to FDNY specifications. Delivery of the first of these new trucks is anticipated in the 1st quarter of 2011.

For specialty units, FDNY uses a variety of manufacturers. Its current heavy rescues, often called a 'toolbox on wheels' were built by Ferrara. In 2010, a new contract was issued for five new rescue trucks, using a chassis and stainless steel cab custom-designed to FDNY specifications. As of January 2012, the new Ferrara Rescues 1–4 are in service, while the new Rescue 5 was, until it was involved in an incident and was taken out of service for repair. All issues should be resolved soon. Other specialty units, including hazardous material units, collapse trucks, and reserve rescues are made by American LaFrance, Pierce, E-One, Freightliner, and Ferrara (HAZMAT 1). Various body types include standard heavy rescue bodies, step vans, busses and smaller units built on GMC and Ford pick up truck bodies.

FDNY battalion and division chiefs as well as EMS supervisors operate with GMC pick-up trucks with caps and roll out trays in the bed made by Odyssey Specialty Vehicles.[34] EMS division chiefs use Crown Victorias and Chevy Impalas.

The ambulances used by FDNY EMS are usually manufactured by Horton Ambulance, and the modules are generally mounted on Ford F-350 light truck chassis. When NYC EMS merged with the FDNY in 1996, the ambulances had their orange stripe replaced with a red, and they were manufactured by Wheeled Coach, again on Ford F-350 chassis. Some of the older ambulances were built by Southern Ambulance Builders, and mounted on Chevrolet 3500 chassis.


In addition to its engine, truck, and rescue companies, FDNY operates three Class I fireboats as Marine Companies:

Three older fireboats are kept in reserve: John D. McKean, Governor Alfred E. Smith, and Kevin C. Kane. A former FDNY Marine Unit, the John J. Harvey, is notable as having returned to active service as Marine 2 on September 11, 2001, and providing firefighting services for 80 hours following the attack.[35]

In 2010, the newly built fireboat Three Forty Three replaced the John D. McKean, which entered service in 1954, as Marine 1. A twin, 140-foot, vessel, Fire Fighter II, replaced Fire Fighter, dedicated in 1938, as Marine 9.[36] The two new boats cost $60 million, funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, and represented the city's first major investment in new fireboats in 50 years. The $2.4 million Bravest, commissioned on May 26, 2011, is smaller than the other two Class I boats, at 65 feet, but is able to operate in shallower waters, including those near the city's airports.

The department is also building a fleet of 14 smaller, class II fireboats, with ten 33-foot Rapid Response Fire, three 31-foot medical response and one 33-foot SCUBA boats expected to have been delivered by January 2013.[37]

Volunteer departments

Former headquarters of the Brooklyn Fire Department, near MetroTech Center; it was designed by architect Frank Freeman and built in 1892.

Nine volunteer fire companies remain in New York City and respond to calls in their neighborhood, in addition to FDNY units. They are typically in more isolated neighborhoods of the city. By borough, the volunteer companies are:

The Staten Island volunteer companies are dispatched by the Staten Island Communications Office and operate on the FDNY Staten Island frequency. Broad Channel and West Hamilton Beach have teleprinters in parallel with the FDNY fire companies that also serve their area. The Brooklyn and first four volunteer companies in Queens also provide ambulance services.

The nine Volunteer Fire Departments supplement the FDNY, however they have sometimes proven essential, for example during storms when flooding conditions prevented FDNY Companies from reaching alarms or promptly or at all. Typically the departments respond in addition to the initial assignment dispatched by the FDNY. The volunteer departments are fully trained and operational with the apparatus and equipment they have. Therefore, when they arrive to a scene first or when needed they will implement their operations alongside FDNY as applicable.

Other units

FDNY EMS Supervisor 936's Command pickup, a 2012 GMC Extended Crew Cab 4X4 Diesel Pickup XLS built by Odyssey Specialty Vehicles.
Collapse Rescue 1's apparatus.
One of the many smaller S.O.C. Support Trucks operated by the FDNY for use at various emergencies.

Union representation

The Department's lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA), regular firefighters and fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), and Fire Alarm Dispatchers, Supervising Fire Alarm Dispatchers, and Chief Fire Alarm Dispatchers are represented by the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association—all three of which are locals of the International Association of Fire Fighters.[41] EMTs, paramedics and fire protection inspectors are represented by the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors and EMS officers are represented by the Uniform EMS Officers Union, both of which are locals of District Council 37.[42]

In popular culture


The Fire Department of New York has appeared a number of times within literature. "Report from Engine Co. 82", "20,000 Alarms", and "The Last Men Out: Life on the Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse" are three of the most famous pieces of FDNY literature.[43][44] In addition to memorials, the FDNY has produced a number of educational materials. One of these books is the 177 page "Fire Department of New York- Forcible Entry Reference Guide- Techniques and Procedures"[45]

Film and television

The New York City Fire Department has also appeared in numerous films and television shows. One of the earliest was the 1972 documentary Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning, for BBC Television. It was screened in the United Kingdom on September 27, 1972, and followed firefighters from a firehouse in the South Bronx: Battalion 27, Ladder 31 and Engine 82. It chronicled the appalling conditions the firefighters worked in with roughly one emergency call per hour, and the high rates of arson and malicious calls.[46] The documentary focused heavily on firefighter Dennis Smith, who served in the South Bronx area and went on to write Report from Engine Co. 82 and a number of other books. He has become a prominent speaker on firefighting policy.[47]

In the 1984 film Ghostbusters, Ladder Company 8's house at 14 North Moore Street in Tribeca was featured as the headquarters of the Ghostbusters. Ladder 8 has the sign from Ghostbusters II mounted on the wall inside the house, and is more or less resigned to fans of the franchise stopping by to take photos of the building and asking to pose with the sign.[48]

In 1991, FDNY firefighter Brian Hickey and his brother Raymond produced a documentary entitled Firefighters: Brothers in Battle.[49] The film features footage of fires and rescues throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including the Happy Land Social Club fire which killed 87 persons, dramatic rescues from a crashed airplane off of La Guardia Airport, and footage and interviews at Medal Day 1991. Raymond died of cancer in 1993 and Brian was killed on 9/11 while operating at the World Trade Center.[50] Brian last served as the Captain of Rescue Company 4 in Queens.

The 2002 documentary film 9/11 is footage of the 9/11 attacks filmed by brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet. It follows members of first responders Engine 7/Ladder 1 and Battalion 1 on Duane Street in Lower Manhattan.[51] The 2005 film Brotherhood: Life in the FDNY, focuses on Squad 252 in Brooklyn, Rescue 1 in Manhattan and Rescue 4 in Queens.

Television series about FDNY have included Rescue Me, which ran from 2004 to 2011 and depicted the fictional life of firefighters in an FDNY firehouse.[52] The NBC drama Third Watch ran from 1999 to 2005 and provided a fictionalized and dramatized depiction of the firefighters and paramedics of the FDNY and police officers of the New York City Police Department.

Ranks of the FDNY

Title Insignia (shirt collar) Insignia (dress jacket)
Chief of Department
5 Gold Bugles/5 arm sleeve bands
Chief of Fire Operations/Chief of EMS Operations/Chief of Training/Chief of Fire Prevention
4 Gold Bugles/4 arm sleeve bands
Assistant Chief/EMS Assistant Chief
4 Gold Bugles/4 arm sleeve bands
Deputy Assistant Chief/ EMS Deputy Assistant Chief
4 Gold Bugles/3 arm sleeve bands
Division Chief (Division Commander)/EMS Division Chief/Senior Chaplain
3 Gold Bugles/2 arm sleeve bands
Deputy Chief/EMS Deputy Chief (Deputy Commander to Division Chief or citywide EMS shift supervisor)(Deputy Chief Inspector Fire Prevention)/Department Chaplain
3 Gold Bugles/2 arm sleeve bands
Battalion Chief (Battalion Commander)
2 Gold Crossed Bugles/1 arm sleeve band
Battalion Chief
2 Gold Crossed Bugles/1 arm sleeve band
Captain (Company Commanding Officer, and commanding officer of the firehouse if assigned to an Engine or a Rescue company)/EMS Captain (EMS Station commanding officer or EMS Division shift supervisor)
2 Silver Parallel Bugles*/2 arm sleeve bands
Lieutenant (Company Officer)/EMS Lieutenant (shift supervisor, desk or conditions)
1 Silver Bugle*/1 arm sleeve band
Firefighter (5th through 1st Class, one class being achieved for each year of service after probation up to five years)/EMT/Paramedic
Probationary Firefighter (often referred to as "Probie", as slang for probationary fire fighter)/Provisional EMT/Provisional Paramedic

* Note: In place of Bugle(s) Captains and Lieutenants assigned to: Ladder Companies are signified by axe(s), Rescue Companies by Life gun(s), Squad Companies by crossed Ladder(s) and Stacked Tip Nozzle(s) and Marine Companies by Bugle(s) with Anchor.

See also

Notes and references


  1. 1 2 New York's Bravest
  2. 1 2 "FDNY Vital Statistics CY 2013" (PDF). The City of New York. Retrieved September 7, 2014.
  3. New York City Charter § 481; "There shall be a fire department the head of which shall be the commissioner."
  5. "9 Metrotech Center – FDNY Headquarters". Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. Retrieved on November 5, 2009.
  6. "FDNY Fire Academy".
  7. "FDNY Photo Unit: Images of Heroes". Fire Department of New York. Retrieved December 3, 2007.
  8. "FDNY Fire Operations response on September 11" (PDF). Fire Department of New York. Retrieved February 23, 2007.
  9. The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York By George William Sheldon (Harper & Brothers, 1892)
  10. 1 2 "History of Fire Service". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved December 3, 2007.
  11. "Dutch Colonization". National Park Service. Retrieved December 3, 2007.
  12. 1 2 "Heroes of Ground Zero. FDNY A History". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on May 3, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  13. "Bresnan and Assistant Foreman John L. Rooney". Findmypast. September 11, 2014.
  14. "LINDSAY SELECTS A NEGRO TO HEAD FIRE DEPARTMENT - Lowery, Democrat, Will Be First of His Race to Hold That Commissionership - Front Page -". November 24, 1965.
  15. "We Have Some Planes". National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Retrieved December 3, 2007.
  16. Manning, Bill (September 2, 2002). "WORLD TRADE CENTER DISASTER: INITIAL RESPONSE". Fire Engineering.
  17. 1 2 Fritsch, Jane (September 12, 2001). "A Day of Terror – The Response: Rescue Workers Rush In, and Many Do Not Return". New York Times.
  18. Kevin Baker, "A Fate Worse than Bush: Rudy Giuliani and the Politics of Personality," Harpers, August 2007, p. 37, citing Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Times Books, 2002)
  19. Dean E. Murphy (September 17, 2001). "Honoring the Rescuers". New York Times.
  20. Kevin Flynn, Jim Dwyer (November 9, 2002). "Fire Department Tape Reveals No Awareness of Imminent Doom". New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2008. mirror
  21. Michael Daly (August 11, 2002). "His brave voice resounds". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 13, 2008. mirror
  22. Mai Tran (January 3, 2003). "A Week in West for 9/11 Firefighter Families". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2008. mirror
  24. Kevin Flynn and Jim Dwyer (August 3, 2002). "FIRE DEPT. LAPSES ON 9/11 ARE CITED". New York Times.
  25. "The Great Northeast Blackout of 2003". Deputy Assistant Chief John Norman, FDNY. Archived from the original (PowerPoint) on February 28, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2007.
  26. "Daniel Nigro Sworn In As New FDNY Commissioner". CBS Local Media. 2014-06-09. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
  27. – 1870
  28. NYC Fire Museum – History of the FDNY
  29. "The 11th New York Volunteer Infantry - First Fire Zouaves".
  30. Mayor of New York Press Release PR- 291-04 November 3, 2004
  31. "FDNY - EMS History".
  32. Griffiths (2007), pp. 210
  33. Dispatcher "FD347". "F.D.N.Y. 10 Codes". FD New York (unofficial page). New York. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  34. "GMC 2500 Battalion Chief Battalion Chief Conversion".
  35. "Historic Fireboat Aids in New York City Response and Recovery at World Trade Center". National Park Service. Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  36. NY Daily News on new fireboats
  37. "FDNY Annual Report 2012" (PDF). FDNY. 2012. Retrieved 2015-06-30. Additionally, FDNY expects to take delivery of the following 10 boats by January 2013: seven 33-foot boats, two 31-foot medical response boats and one 33-foot SCUBA boat.
  38. 1 2 Akther, Rahinur (30 January 2012). "When the Hydrant Freezes, Firefighters Struggle". Dollars & Sense. Baruch College. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  39. "FDNY: Frequently Asked Questions". 19 April 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  40. "Viewpoint from 9 MetroTech" (PDF). FDNY. March 2007.
  41. Donna De La Cruz (November 7, 2001). "FDNY Union Leaders Surrender After Protest". Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  42. "EMT and Paramedic Frequently Asked Questions". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  43. Report from Engine Co. 82 (Amazon) Accessed: 5/1/2012
  44. Life on The Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse (Google Books) Accessed:5/1/2012
  45. "Firefighter Career Guide" (PDF). FireTactics.
  46. "Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  47. "". Dennis Smith. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  48. "Hook & Ladder 8 - Ghostbusters". August 13, 2014.
  49. "F.D.N.Y.: Brothers in Battle (1992)". New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  50. "FDNY Captain Brian Hickey". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  51. "9/11 (2002) TV". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 30, 2007.
  52. "Denis Leary plays with fire on 'Rescue Me'". August 8, 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2007.


  • Boucher, Micheal L.; Urbanowicz, Gary R.; Melhan, Fred B., Jr. (2006). The Last Alarm: The History and Tradition of Supreme Sacrifice in the Fire Departments of New York M. T. Publishing, Inc., Evansville, Indiana
  • Costello, Augustine E. (1887). Our Firemen: A History of the New York Fire Departments, Volunteer and Paid. New York, New York: Costello
  • Daly, Charles P. (1871). On the Origin and History of the New York Fire Department. New York, New York: Unknown
  • Dunshee, Kenneth H. (1939). Enjine!~Enjine! Harold Vincent Smith for the Home Insurance Company, New York, New York
  • Dunshee, Kenneth H. (1952) As You Pass By Hastings House Publishers, New York, New York
  • Griffiths, John L. (2007). Fire Department of New York – an Operational Reference. New York, New York: Griffiths.
  • Urbanowicz, Gary R. (2002). Badges of the Bravest: A Pictorial History of Fire Departments in New York City. Turner Publishing, Paducah, KY

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