New York City Fire Department

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Fire Department
of the City of New York

New York City Fire Department Emblem.svg

Motto: "New York's Bravest"
EMS Motto: "New York's Best"[1]
EstablishedJuly 31, 1865 (origins go back to 1648)
StaffingCareer w/ Volunteer

15,870 (as of December 31, 2010)[2]

  • Uniformed Fire: 10,787
  • Uniformed EMS: 3,200
  • Civilian: 1,599


(including EMS stations)
Helicopters0 at present. NYPD Helicopters used when needed.
EMS Units234 (Morning and Evening)
146 (Overnight)
Fire chiefEdward S. Kilduff
CommissionerSalvatore Cassano
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Fire Department
of the City of New York

New York City Fire Department Emblem.svg

Motto: "New York's Bravest"
EMS Motto: "New York's Best"[1]
EstablishedJuly 31, 1865 (origins go back to 1648)
StaffingCareer w/ Volunteer

15,870 (as of December 31, 2010)[2]

  • Uniformed Fire: 10,787
  • Uniformed EMS: 3,200
  • Civilian: 1,599


(including EMS stations)
Helicopters0 at present. NYPD Helicopters used when needed.
EMS Units234 (Morning and Evening)
146 (Overnight)
Fire chiefEdward S. Kilduff
CommissionerSalvatore Cassano

The New York City Fire Department, officially the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), has the responsibility of protecting the citizens and property of New York City's five boroughs from fires and fire hazards, providing emergency medical services, technical rescue as well as providing primary response to biological, chemical and radioactive hazards. The department has its headquarters in 9 MetroTech Center, Downtown Brooklyn,[3] and its training academy (The FDNY Fire Academy) on Randalls Island.[4]

The FDNY, the largest municipal fire department in the United States, and the second largest in the world after the Tokyo Fire Department, has approximately 11,080 uniformed officers and firefighters and over 3,300 uniformed emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. It faces extraordinarily varied 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, as well as large parks and wooded areas that can give rise to major brush fires. New York is also home to one of the largest subway systems in the world, consisting of hundreds of miles of tunnel with electrified track. The multifaceted challenges they face add yet another level of firefighting complexity and have led to the FDNY's motto, New York’s Bravest.


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, in many cases echoing the structure of the police.[5] The department's executive staff is divided into two areas including a civilian fire commissioner who is in charge of the department and a fire chief who is the operational lead. The current fire commissioner is (former fire chief) Salvatore Cassano, who took over from Nicholas Scoppetta at the start of 2010. The executive staff includes the civilian fire commissioners who are responsible for bureaus within the Department, along with the Chief of Department, Chief of Fire Operations, Chief of EMS, the Chief Fire Marshal and the staff chiefs. Staff chiefs include the seven citywide tour commanders, the Chief of Safety, the Chief of Fire Prevention, and the Chief of Training.[6]

Operationally and geographically, the department is nominally organized into five borough commands for the five traditional boroughs of New York. Within those borough commands exist nine divisions, each headed by a deputy chief. Within each division are four to seven battalions, each led by a battalion chief and typically consisting of 180–200 firefighters and officers. Each battalion then consists of four to eight companies, with each company being led by a captain, who commands three lieutenants and 16–42 firefighters. Last is the unit consisting of the members of the company on call during a given tour, consisting of a lieutenant or a captain plus a number of firefighters depending on the type of unit: 3–4 firefighters on an engine company, 5 on a ladder company, (also known as a truck company), 5 for a rescue company, 5 for a squad company, 4 for a marine company, and 6 for the hazardous materials company.



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.[7]

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.[8]

In 1664 New Amsterdam became a British settlement and was renamed New York.[9] 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.[10]

Mid 19th century Chief

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."[10]

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."


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 FDNY as we know it today.

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

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.

Former headquarters of the Brooklyn Fire Department, near MetroTech Center, before its consolidation with NYC in 1898. Designed by architect Frank Freeman; built 1892.

Initially, the paid fire service only covered New York City (present day Manhattan), until the act of 1865 which united Brooklyn with New York 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. There are ten volunteer fire companies left in New York City that respond to calls in their neighborhood in addition to a normal assignment of 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. Broad Channel VFD has over 102 years of active service.


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.

Monument to the Heroes of the Fire Department

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 where 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 Super Pumper System were introduced in 1965. Major apparatus of the Super Pumper System (the Super Pumper and the Super Tender) 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.[11] In 1982 the first female firefighters joined the ranks of the Fire Department.

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.

FDNY Ladder 8, the Ghostbuster's Firehouse

September 11, 2001 attacks[edit]

A New York City firefighter looks up at what remains of the World Trade Center after its collapse during the Sep 11 terrorist attack.

On September 11, 2001 19 terrorists associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger aircraft to be used to attack targets in New York and Washington, DC, in what came to be known as the September 11 attacks or 9/11. Two aircraft hijacked out of Logan International Airport in Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were flown by terrorists into the North and South twin towers respectively of the World Trade Center, causing massive damage to both towers during impact, and starting fires that eventually caused the weakened 110-story skyscrapers to collapse.[12]

New York City fire companies and EMS crews were deployed to the World Trade Center minutes after the first aircraft 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 200 units to the site, with more than 400 firefighters, EMTs and paramedics on the scene when the towers collapsed.[13]

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.[14] 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, EMTs and paramedics who responded to the attacks lost their lives. The casualties included First Deputy Commissioner William M. Feehan, Chief of Department Peter Ganci[13] Department Chaplain Mychal Judge,[15] Battalion Chief Orio Palmer and Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca[16][17][18]  

Meanwhile, average response times to fires elsewhere in the city that day only rose by one minute, to 5.5 minutes.[19] 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.


The quarters of Engine 205 and Hook & Ladder 118 depict a mural dedicated to 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.[20]

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.[8]

Salvatore Cassano is the current commissioner of the FDNY. He was appointed to this job by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (January 1, 2010). Cassano is the 34th FDNY Commissioner.

In 2011, Brooke (last name withheld) was hired as the FDNYs first openly transgender employee.[21]

On July 16, 2012, federal judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, a President Bill Clinton appointed judge for the Eastern District of New York, ordered the New York City Fire Department to implement racial quotas to address grievances from minorities who failed entrance exams. His ruling requires two of every five newly hired firefighters to be black and one of every five, Hispanic until the department has fulfilled the court-ordered quota of 186 black and 107 Hispanic hires. This is due to a lawsuit that alleges two placement exams (Written Exams 7029 or 2043) for the FDNY were discriminatory against blacks and Hispanics, because fewer minorities passed the exam than whites.[22]

Ideology and core competencies[edit]

Ladder 21 – "The Pride of Hell's Kitchen".

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.[23]


An FDNY Haz-Tac Ambulance
typical EMS station

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 1.3 million calls each year. All of the FDNY EMS Command members are also trained to the HAZMAT Operations level. A select group of 36 EMS units (15 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 36, 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.[27]

Firehose connection in Manhattan

Core competencies[edit]

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.[28] FDNY core competencies include:


Fire calls for 2006[edit]

For the period January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2006 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[29]

There were 2,971 serious fires in 2006, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity. Response times to incidents were roughly between two and a half, to six minutes from the time of call, depending on total activity and borough, with the quickest responses being in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the slowest in Queens and Staten Island.

Fire calls for 2007[edit]

For the period January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2007 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[30]

There were 3,143 serious fires in 2007, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity.

Fire calls for 2008[edit]

For the period January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2008 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[31]

There were 2,715 serious fires in 2008, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity. Response times to incidents were roughly between four to five minutes from the time of call, depending on total activity and borough, with the quickest responses being in the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the slowest in Queens and Staten Island.[32]

Fire calls for 2009[edit]

For the period January 1, 2009, to December 31, 2009 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[33]

There were 2,485 serious fires in 2009, defined as those declared 'all hands' or above in severity.

Unit Activity CY 2009

Top Five Engine Companies

1. Engine 625,498
2. Engine 755,346
3. Engine 585,300
4. Engine 2905,153
5. Engine 375,124

Top Five Ladder Companies

1. Ladder 1234,432
2. Ladder 434,366
3. Ladder 1204,261
4. Ladder 264,242
5. Ladder 284,233

Top Five Battalions

1. Battalion 95,114
2. Battalion 84,416
3. Battalion 164,226
4. Battalion 504,074
5. Battalion 63,863

Top Five EMS Units

1. 57A32,988
2. 37B22,879
3. 37D32,789
4. 37B32,777
5. 48B22,766

Fire calls for 2011[edit]

For the period January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011 the FDNY dealt with the following number of calls:[34]

Unit Activity CY 2011

Top Five Engine Companies

1. Engine 625,316
2. Engine 755,314
3. Engine 2905,282
4. Engine 795,211
5. Engine 585,084

Top Five Ladder Companies

1. Ladder 524,321
2. Ladder 1234,299
3. Ladder 1204,237
4. Ladder 264,147
5. Ladder 1034,113

Top Five Battalions

1. Battalion 95,086
2. Battalion 84,312
3. Battalion 504,052
4. Battalion 163,860
5. Battalion 463,857

Top Five EMS Units

1. 07C12,370
2. 06A32,367
3. 16D22,307
4. 07D22,297
5. 16B32,284

Bureau of Communications[edit]

Radio station, Brooklyn
Fire Telegraph Station in Woodhaven, Queens

As of 2010 there are three Bureau of Fire Communications alarm offices. One office, at 11 Metrotech Center in Brooklyn, houses Manhattan/Citywide, Brooklyn, and Staten Island Fire Communications. 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.

The initial call to an FDNY communications 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 response based on the information provided. This information is automatically sent to the Decision Dispatcher (DD) and the "Tour Supervising Dispatcher".

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, either in their firehouses or to the mobile data terminals (MDT) if their apparatus is in the field, depending on where the Starfire computer shows them to be situated. If a unit in a fire station does not acknowledge the run within 30 seconds, the computer will notify the voice alarm dispatcher who will call that unit in the station by the dedicated intercom system. One minute after the alarm is released, it will appear on the computer screen of the radio dispatcher, who will announce the alarm and the response two times and ask for acknowledgment from any units 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 borough alarm 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 fire alarm office. If an ERS 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 box location.

Any fire alarm office in NYC 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.

Alarm receiving and transmittal[edit]

There are five ways in which fires and emergencies can be reported to the New York City Fire Department:

  1. Telephone alarms: The most common method of contacting the Fire Department is one in which a civilian uses a telephone to dial one of three types of numbers. The first is 9-1-1, which is answered by New York Police Department (NYPD) operators. The second is a special 7-digit telephone number which is published in each borough for the specific purpose of reporting fires. The third involves dialing "0" which routes the call to a telephone company operator who, then, transfers it to the fire alarm dispatchers in the proper FDNY central office.
  2. Alarm boxes: The second most common method is by means of FDNY fire alarm boxes located on the street and in certain public buildings such as schools and hospitals as well as along highways, on bridges, etc. These boxes primarily consist of two types. The first is the mechanical box (also commonly called a pull-box or a telegraph box) in which a spring-wound mechanism alternately opens and closes an electrical circuit, thereby rendering a coded number linked to the specific location of the box. Until the advent of the STARFIRE "Computer-Assisted Dispatch System" (CADS), dispatchers had to audibly count the taps from mechanical boxes when they were received in the central offices. Today, a "Box Alarm Readout System" (BARS) display handles that aspect of the job. The second type is the "Emergency Reporting System" (ERS) box that is equipped with buttons to notify either the FDNY or the NYPD, allowing either department's dispatcher to have direct voice communication with a reporting party. Beginning in the 1970s, ERS boxes started to replace mechanical boxes in many areas of the City. In December 1994, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then-Fire Commissioner Howard Safir began a concerted effort to remove all of the mechanical and ERS boxes throughout New York City in a cost-cutting move. Facing stiff opposition from members of the City Council, community groups, dispatchers and others, the move was blocked by court order as being discriminatory against the disabled (i.e., particularly the speech- and/or hearing-impaired) who – along with the poor – might otherwise have no dependable way to report fires and emergencies if the alarm boxes were eliminated. (In addition, unlike many other cities in the world, it was noted that 117 different languages and dialects are spoken by the residents of and visitors to the "Big Apple." Since, unlike telephones, a fire alarm box requires no verbal contact to indicate its exact location, a person would not have to be able to speak – at all – or to understand English in order to alert the FDNY to a fire or emergency. For this reason, as well, the boxes were recognized as being vital to New Yorkers' safety.)
  3. "Class 3" alarms: Less common than the first two means of reporting fires are so-called "Class 3"s which are routed through commercial alarm companies. These firms monitor sprinkler systems, standpipes, smoke detectors and internal pull-stations in non-public occupancies such as factories, warehouses, stores and office buildings. When alarms are received from such accounts, these companies pass-along the information to the FDNY central offices, usually by dedicated telephone circuits. (The term "Class 3" derives from the fact that the box number on such an assignment card would have a "3" preceding it as well as a "terminal" following it (e.g., "3-7012-4" would indicate a private alarm system in a commercial occupancy at a specific address in the immediate vicinity of Box 7012 on the corner of Review Avenue and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Queens]. In such cases, the type of alarm (e.g., sprinkler, smoke detector, interior pull-station, etc.) and an exact address – and, often, even a specific section of a building – would instantly be made available to responding units.)
  4. Verbal alarms: The least common means of reporting fires or emergencies generally involves civilians "verbally" making such reports directly to firehouses –or– when incidents are observed by fire units themselves when they are away from their quarters. (However, "verbal" alarms may also be reported by chief officers, Department officials (e.g., commissioners, medical officers, chaplains, et al.) or civilian employees of the FDNY (e.g., communications electricians, mechanics and such – even the dispatchers themselves) who observe fires or emergencies in the course of the performance of their duties.) If a fire company is available, in quarters, it will immediately respond to the incident after advising the dispatchers of same via telephone, voice alarm or radio. If the unit is away from its firehouse (e.g., responding to or operating at another alarm, on inspection duty, etc.) at the time, the company will either stop at the new incident and operate, or the officer will request a separate assignment (...because the reporting unit is unavailable to operate). Based on the information received by the dispatchers, the appropriate action (e.g., transmitting a new box, etc.) is initiated in regard to the new incident.

When a member of the public dials 911, he or she is connected to an NYPD 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[edit]

Each address in the city is assigned a box number, based on the closest street, special building or highway box. This gives the companies en route cross streets for the alarm. 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. At present there are about 16,000 physical 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[edit]

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 have an impact on fire-fighting operations. Such things as:

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 bell code signals[edit]

The New York City Fire Department utilizes a series of radio bell code signals and 10-code signals to transmit and relay information during general department operations and during emergency situations. Below is a listing of radio bell code signals and commonly used 10-code signals used by the FDNY on a daily basis.

1–11st Alarm announcement and/or response.
2-22nd Alarm announcement and/or response.
3Indicating an alarm originating in a special FDNY Alarm Box(8000 series boxes).
3-33rd Alarm announcement and/or response.
4Battalion Chief response required.
4-44th Alarm announcement and/or response.
5Engine Company response required.
5-55th Alarm announcement and/or response.
5–71 Engine Company and 1 Ladder Company response required.
5-5-5-5Line of Duty Death (LODD). All flags lowered half staff.
6Marine Company response required.
6-5-2Department message.
6-66th Alarm announcement and/or response.
7Ladder Company response required.
7-5All-Hands announcement and/or response.
7-77th Alarm announcement and/or response.
8Squad Company response required.
8-88th Alarm announcement and/or response.
9Preliminary report for Special Units.
9-99th Alarm announcement and/or response.
10Rescue Company response required.
14Battalion Chief relocation or returning from relocation.
15Engine Company relocation or returning from relocation.
16Marine Company relocation or returning from relocation.
17Ladder Company relocation or returning from relocation.
65-2Department message.

10-code signals[edit]

There are 52 10-codes used by the FDNY.[35]

A Signal 10–75 is transmitted by the first arriving fire company for a working fire or other incident where it appears that the assigned companies will likely all be put to work at a fire or other emergency. Contrary to common belief, a 10–75 can be transmitted where the emergency is non-fire related but appears to require a full first alarm assignment. When a 10–75 is given, a Rescue Company and a Squad Company are automatically assigned, unless they have already been assigned on the box. In addition, a third and fourth engine company as well as a second truck company and a FAST truck (ladder company) are assigned, along with an additional battalion chief. Notification is made to the deputy (division) chief for the district, and he almost always asks for a fire ticket and starts his response.

When all companies are put to work at an incident, the Signal 7-5 is transmitted over the Starfire computer system, but on the radio the listener will simply hear the terms "All Hands" or "All Companies at Work (or Working)." If the "All Hands" is in a subway or railroad facility, or any other location where communications might be difficult, a Field Communications Unit is sent. A Deputy Chief is mandatorily assigned on transmission of the Signal 7-5, but he almost always has responded on the 10–75 signal.

Special calls for additional units above a Signal 7-5 are by number and type of unit. A Dispatcher's greater alarm, formerly used to fill out special call requests during busy periods of fire activity, has been eliminated from dispatch procedures.

Higher alarms bring additional ladders, engines and special equipment, depending on location and type of incident. Greater alarms are a Second (Signal 2–2), a Third (3–3), a Fourth (4–4), and a Fifth (5–5). Technically there are no alarms greater than a Fifth Alarm and no computer signals exist for them. If a chief asks for a sixth or higher alarm, it has to be written out as such in the computer and companies are assigned by the Supervising Dispatcher of the Tour. Borough calls and simultaneous calls, previously used for incidents that required more than a five alarm assignment, have been eliminated from dispatch procedures.

There are also certain special signals given for unique incidents. Several of them include:

Alarm TypeMeaning
10–60Declared as a major incident, it brings a major response of equipment to the scene and mandates transmission of next highest alarm
10–66The newest signal, this is used for missing firefighters at an incident. It mandates the transmission of the next higher alarm level. It was first used at the August 2007, fatal fire in the Deutsche Bank Building, where a number of firefighters got lost in an illegal maze of demolition and asbestos removal structures, and where two veteran firemen were killed.
10–75Working Fire reported and assignment requested. Declared when smoke or fire is showing from a building.
10–76Working fire in a high-rise (more than 7 stories) commercial building or hotel.
10–77Working fire in a high-rise (more than 7 stories) residential building.
10–80Hazardous Materials incident

Any or all of these signals: 10–76, 10–77, 10–60, 10–66 and 10–80, can be used in conjunction with a 10–75, a 7–5("All Hands") or a greater alarm, depending on circumstances. For example, at the aforementioned Deutsche Bank Building Fatal Fire in 2007, seven alarms were struck in addition to the use of the 10–76, 10–66 and 10–80 signals. The 2007 Manhattan Steampipe explosion utilized six alarms, plus the 10–60 and 10–80 signals. If a 10–66 is transmitted as the result of a collapse, a 10–60 must also be transmitted; this will result in the next 2 higher alarms being transmitted, (1 additional alarm for each signal).

Response guidelines[edit]

Structure Fire Response Protocol[edit]

Alarm TypeAlarm LevelEngines AssignedLadders AssignedBattalion Chiefs AssignedDivision Chiefs AssignedSquads Assigned AssignedRescues Assigned AssignedSpecial Units Assigned
Signal 5-71st Alarm11
Box Alarm1st Alarm21-21
Telephone/Street Box Alarm1st Alarm321
Signal 10-751st Alarm, Working Fire(Upgrade)11(FAST)1111
Signal 7-51st Alarm, Working Fire, All Hands(Upgrade)1(Extra)1(Extra)1 RAC Unit
Signal 10-761st Alarm, Working Fire in a High-Rise Commercial Building(Upgrade)4(1 Lobby Control, 1 High-Rise Nozzle, 1 CFRD, 1 High-Rise Unit)3(1 FAST, 1 Vent Support)5(1 High-Rise, 1 Lobby Control, 1 Safety, 1 Rescue Operating, 1 Safety Operating)1111 RAC Unit, 1 High-Rise Unit, 1 TSU, 1 MSU, 1 Comm. Tac. Unit, Field Comm. Unit
Signal 10-771st Alarm, Working Fire in a High-Rise Residential/Hotel Building(Upgrade)3(1 High-Rise Nozzle, 1 CFRD, 1 High-Rise Unit)3(1 FAST, 1 Vent Support)4(1 High-Rise, 1 Safety, 1 Rescue Operating, 1 Safety Operating)1111 RAC Unit, 1 High-Rise Unit, 1 Comm. Tac. Unit, Field Comm. Unit
Signal 2-22nd Alarm(Upgrade)5(1 Satellite Unit)22(1 Safety, 1 Resource Unit Leader)1 Satellite Unit, 1 TSU, Field Comm. Unit
Signal 3-33rd Alarm(Upgrade)423(1 Staging, 1 Air Recon.)1 MSU
Signal 4-44th Alarm(Upgrade)421(Planning)
Signal 5-55th Alarm(Upgrade)421 Assistant Chief(Borough Commander), 1 Chief of Operations
Higher Alarms6th-12th Alarm/Borough Call(Upgrade)4 per Alarm2 per Alarm

Rescue incidents[edit]

Minor fires/special incidents[edit]

EMS emergencies[edit]


FDNY Engine 6, a Seagrave pumper which replaced the older apparatus which was destroyed on 9/11/2001. The names of the four Engine 6 firefighters lost that day are written on the front door.

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 truck. FDNY's very specific specifications meant that few apparatus manufacturers could compete with Seagrave for the contract.

Most of the engines in FDNY's fleet are Seagrave Commander II's and Seagrave Marauder II's and include 500 gallon water tanks and either 1000 or 2000 gallon per minute pumps. The 2000gpm 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 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.

Truck 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 to Ferrara Fire Apparatus, 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.

Specialty units[edit]

Rescue 1 (Ferrara)

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 Ford Excursions which are soon to start being replaced by GMC pick-up trucks with caps and roll out trays in the bed.[36] 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.[37]

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.[38] 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.[39]

Types of apparatus[edit]

Some apparatus types are indicated using color-coded patches emblazoned with company numbers on the front of firefighters' helmets.


Union representation[edit]

The Department's lieutenants, captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs, medical officers and supervising fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA), while regular firefighters and fire marshals are represented by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), both of which are locals of the International Association of Fire Fighters.[40] Fire Alarm Dispatchers are represented by the Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association. EMTs, paramedics and fire protection inspectors are represented by the Uniformed EMTs & Paramedics and EMS officers are represented by the Uniform EMS Officers Union, both of which are locals of District Council 37.[41]

FDNY in literature[edit]

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 two of the most famous pieces of FDNY literature.[42][43] 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"[44]

FDNY in film and television[edit]

The New York City Fire Department has appeared in numerous films and television shows in recent years. 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 fire house 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.[45]

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.[46]

In 1991, brothers Brian Hickey, a New York City firefighter and his brother Raymond produced a documentary entitled Firefighters: Brothers in Battle.[47] The film features footage of fires and rescues throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including the infamous 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. Unfortunately, Raymond died of cancer in 1993 and Brian was killed on September 11, 2001 while operating at the World Trade Center.[48] Brian last served as Captain of Rescue Company 4 in Queens.

The 2002 documentary film 9/11 features the September 11, 2001 attacks from the perspective of two amateur film makers and the members of first responders, Engine 7/Ladder 1 and Battalion 1 on Duane street in Lower Manhattan.[49] Two other documentaries include the 2005 film Brotherhood: Life in the FDNY, which 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.[50] 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.

In the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, Ladder 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 builiding and asking to pose with the sign.[51]

Ranks of the FDNY[edit]

TitleInsignia (shirt collar)Insignia (dress jacket)
Chief of Department
New York Fire Department Chief Rank.png
5 Gold Bugles / 5 arm sleeve bands
Chief of Fire Operations / Chief of EMS Operations / Chief of Training / Chief of Fire Prevention
4 Gold Stars.svg
4 Gold Bugles / 4 arm sleeve bands
Assistant Chief / EMS Assistant Chief
3 Gold Stars.svg
4 Gold Bugles / 4 arm sleeve bands
Deputy Assistant Chief
2 Gold Stars.svg
4 Gold Bugles / 3 arm sleeve bands
Division Chief (Division Commander) / EMS Division Chief
1 Gold Star.svg
3 Gold Bugles / 2 arm sleeve bands
Deputy Chief / EMS Deputy Chief (Deputy Commander to Division Chief or citywide EMS shift supervisor)
Colonel Gold.png
3 Gold Bugles / 2 arm sleeve bands
Battalion Chief (Battalion Commander)
US-O5 insignia.svg
2 Gold Crossed Bugles / 1 arm sleeve band
Battalion Chief
US-O4 insignia.svg
2 Gold Crossed Bugles / 1 arm sleeve band
Captain (Company Commanding Officer, and commanding officer of the firehouse if assigned to an Engine company) / EMS Captain (EMS Station commanding officer or EMS Division shift supervisor)
US-O3 insignia.svg
2 Silver Parallel Bugles* / 2 arm sleeve bands
Lieutenant (Company Officer) / EMS Lieutenant (shift supervisor, desk or conditions)
US-O2 insignia.svg
1 Silver Bugles* / 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b New York's Bravest
  2. ^ "FDNY Vital Statistics CY 2010". The City of New York. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "9 Metrotech Center – FDNY Headquarters". Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. Retrieved on November 5, 2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "FDNY Photo Unit: Images of Heroes". Fire Department of New York. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  6. ^ "FDNY Fire Operations response on September 11" (PDF). Fire Department of New York. Retrieved February 23, 2007. 
  7. ^ The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York By George William Sheldon (Harper & Brothers, 1892)
  8. ^ a b "History of Fire Service". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Dutch Colonization". National Parks Service. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b "Heroes of Ground Zero; FDNY: A History". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  11. ^ LINDSAY SELECTS A NEGRO TO HEAD FIRE DEPARTMENT; Lowery, Democrat, Will Be First of His Race to Hold That Commissionership – New York Times – Page 1 – November 24, 1965
  12. ^ "We Have Some Planes". National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  13. ^ a b Fritsch, Jane (September 12, 2001). "A Day of Terror – The Response: Rescue Workers Rush In, and Many Do Not Return". New York Times. 
  14. ^ 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)
  15. ^ Dean E. Murphy (September 17, 2001). "Honoring the Rescuers". New York Times. 
  16. ^ Kevin Flynn, Jim Dwyer (November 9, 2002). "Fire Department Tape Reveals No Awareness of Imminent Doom". New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2008.  mirror
  17. ^ Michael Daly (August 11, 2002). "His brave voice resounds". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 13, 2008.  mirror
  18. ^ Mai Tran (January 3, 2003). "A Week in West for 9/11 Firefighter Families". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2008.  mirror
  19. ^ Kevin Flynn and Jim Dwyer (August 3, 2002). "FIRE DEPT. LAPSES ON 9/11 ARE CITED". New York Times. 
  20. ^ "The Great Northeast Blackout of 2003" (Powerpoint). Deputy Assistant Chief John Norman, FDNY. Retrieved December 3, 2007. [dead link]
  21. ^
  22. ^ Harrington, Elizabeth. "Federal Judge Imposes Racial Quota on FDNY, Responding to Minorities Who Failed Entrance Exams". CNS News. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  23. ^ – 1870
  24. ^ NYC Fire Museum – History of the FDNY
  25. ^ The 11th New York Volunteer Infantry – First Fire Zouaves
  26. ^ Mayor of New York Press Release PR- 291-04 November 3, 2004
  27. ^ FDNY – EMS History
  28. ^ Griffiths (2007), pp. 210
  29. ^[dead link]
  30. ^[dead link]
  31. ^ "FDNY Vital Statistics CY 2008". The City of New York. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  32. ^[dead link]
  33. ^ "FDNY Vital Statistics CY 2009". The City of New York. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  34. ^ "FDNY Vital Statistics CY 2011". The City of New York. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  35. ^ 10-Codes
  36. ^
  37. ^ "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. 
  38. ^ NY Daily News on new fireboats
  39. ^ FDNY Annual Report 2012, p. 7
  40. ^ Donna De La Cruz. "FDNY Union Leaders Surrender After Protest". Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  41. ^ "EMT and Paramedic Frequently Asked Questions". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  42. ^ Report from Engine Co. 82 (Amazon) Accessed: 5/1/2012
  43. ^ Life on The Edge at Rescue 2 Firehouse (Google Books) Accessed:5/1/2012
  44. ^ FDNY Forcible Entry Guide
  45. ^ "Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  46. ^ "". Dennis Smith. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  47. ^ "F.D.N.Y.: Brothers in Battle (1992)". New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  48. ^ "FDNY Captain Brian Hickey". New York City Fire Department. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  49. ^ "9/11 (2002) TV". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 30, 2007. 
  50. ^ "Denis Leary plays with fire on 'Rescue Me'". August 8, 2006. Retrieved April 12, 2007. 
  51. ^


External links[edit]

Official websites
Other websites