A firefighter is a rescuer extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property, and the environment as well as to rescue people and animals from dangerous situations.
The complexity of modern, industrialized life has created an increase in the skills needed in firefighting technology. The fire service, also known in some countries as the fire brigade or fire department, is one of the three main emergency services. From urban areas to aboard ships, firefighters have become ubiquitous around the world.
The skills required for safe operations are regularly practiced during training evaluations throughout a firefighter's career. Initial firefighting skills are normally taught through local, regional or state-approved fire academies or training courses. Depending on the requirements of a department, additional skills and certifications such as technical rescue and pre-hospital medicine may also be acquired at this time.
Firefighters work closely with other emergency response agencies such as the police and emergency medical service. A firefighter's role may overlap with both. Fire investigators or fire marshals investigate the cause of a fire. If the fire was caused by arson or negligence, their work will overlap with law enforcement. Firefighters also frequently provide some degree of emergency medical service, in addition to working with full-time paramedics.
The basic tasks of firefighters include: fire suppression, rescue, fire prevention, basic first aid, and investigations. Firefighting is further broken down into skills which include: size-up, extinguishing, ventilation, search and rescue, salvage, containment, mop up and overhaul.


Fire suppression

A fire burns due to the presence of three elements: fuel, oxygen and heat. This is often referred to as the fire triangle. Sometimes it is known as the fire tetrahedron if a fourth element is added: a chemical chain reaction which can help sustain certain types of fire. The aim of firefighting is to deprive the fire of at least one of those elements. Most commonly this is done by dousing the fire with water, though some fires require other methods such as foam or dry agents. Firefighters are equipped with a wide variety of equipment for this purpose that include: ladder trucks, pumper trucks, tanker trucks, fire hose, and fire extinguishers.

Structural firefighting

While sometimes fires can be limited to small areas of a structure, wider collateral damage due to smoke, water and burning embers is common. Utility shutoff is typically an early priority for arriving fire crews. In addition, forcible entry may be required in order to gain access into the structure. Specific procedures and equipment are needed at a property where hazardous materials are being used or stored.
Structure fires may be attacked with either "interior" or "exterior" resources, or both. Interior crews, using the "two in, two out" rule, may extend fire hose lines inside the building, find the fire and cool it with water. Exterior crews may direct water into windows and other openings, or against any nearby fuels exposed to the initial fire. Hose streams directed into the interior through exterior wall apertures may conflict and jeopardize interior fire attack crews.
Buildings that are made of flammable materials such as wood are different from building materials such as concrete. Generally, a "fire-resistant" building is designed to limit fire to a small area or floor. Other floors can be safe by preventing smoke inhalation and damage. All buildings suspected or on fire must be evacuated, regardless of fire rating.
Some fire fighting tactics may appear to be destructive, but often serve specific needs. For example, during ventilation, firefighters are forced to either open holes in the roof or floors of a structure, or open windows and walls to remove smoke and heated gases from the interior of the structure. Such ventilation methods are also used to improve interior visibility to locate victims more quickly. Ventilation helps to preserve the life of trapped or unconscious individuals as it releases the poisonous gases from inside the structure. Vertical ventilation is vital to firefighter safety in the event of a flashover or backdraft scenario. Releasing the flammable gases through the roof eliminates the possibility of a backdraft, and the removal of heat can reduce the possibility of a flashover. Flashovers, due to their intense heat and explosive temperaments, are commonly fatal to firefighter personnel. Precautionary methods, such as smashing a window, reveal backdraft situations before the firefighter enters the structure and is met with the circumstance head-on. Firefighter safety is the number one priority.
Whenever possible during a structure fire, property is moved into the middle of a room and covered with a salvage cover, a heavy cloth-like tarp. Various steps such as retrieving and protecting valuables found during suppression or overhaul, evacuating water, and boarding windows and roofs can divert or prevent post-fire runoff.

Wildland firefighting

s require a unique set of strategies and tactics. In many countries such as Australia and the United States, these duties are mostly carried out by local volunteer firefighters. Wildfires have some ecological role in allowing new plants to grow, therefore in some cases they will be left to burn. Priorities in fighting wildfires include preventing the loss of life and property.


Firefighters rescue people from dangerous situations such as crashed vehicles, structural collapses, trench collapses, cave and tunnel emergencies, water and ice emergencies, elevator emergencies, energized electrical line emergencies, and industrial accidents. In less common circumstances, Firefighters rescue victims from hazardous materials emergencies as well as steep cliffs, embankment and high rises - The latter is referred to as High Angle Rescue, or Rope Rescue. Many fire departments, including most in the United Kingdom, refer to themselves as a fire and rescue service for this reason. Large fire departments, such as the New York City Fire Department and London Fire Brigade, have specialist teams for advanced technical rescue. As building fires have been in decline for many years in developed countries such as the United States, rescues other than fires make up an increasing proportion of their firefighters' work.

Emergency medical services

Firefighters frequently provide some degree of emergency medical care. In some jurisdictions first aid is the only medical training that firefighters have, and medical-only calls are the sole responsibility of a separate emergency medical services agency. Elsewhere, it is common for firefighters to respond to medical-only calls. The impetus for this is the growing demand for emergency medicine and the decline of fires and traditional firefighting call-outs—though fire departments still have to be able to respond to them—and their existing ability to respond rapidly to emergencies. A rapid response is particularly necessary for cardiac arrests, as these will lead to death if not treated within minutes.
The dispatch of firefighters to medical emergencies is particularly common in fire departments that run the EMS, including most large cities of the United States. In those departments, firefighters are often jointly trained as emergency medical technicians in order to deliver basic life support, and more rarely as paramedics to deliver advanced life support. In the United Kingdom, where fire services and EMS are run separately, fire service co-responding has been introduced more recently. Another point of variation is whether the firefighters respond in a fire engine or a response car. Either way, separate employees to crew ambulances are still needed, unless the firefighters can work shifts on the ambulances.

Specialized roles

Aircraft rescue & firefighting

s employ specialist firefighters to deal with potential ground emergencies. Due to the mass casualty potential of an aviation emergency, the speed with which emergency response equipment and personnel arrive at the scene of the emergency is of paramount importance. When dealing with an emergency, the airport firefighters are tasked with rapidly securing the aircraft, its crew and its passengers from all hazards, particularly fire. Airport firefighters have advanced training in the application of firefighting foams, dry chemical and clean agents used to extinguish burning aviation fuel.

Hazardous materials

Fire departments are usually the primary agency that responds to an emergency involving hazardous materials. Specialized firefighters, known as hazardous materials technicians, have training and certification in chemical identification, leak control, decontamination, and clean-up procedures.

Fire prevention

Fire departments frequently provide advice to the public on how to prevent fires in the home and work-place environments. Fire inspectors or fire marshals will directly inspect businesses to ensure they are up to the current building fire codes, which are enforced so that a building can sufficiently resist fire spread, potential hazards are located, and to ensure that occupants can be safely evacuated, commensurate with the risks involved.
Fire suppression systems have a proven record for controlling and extinguishing unwanted fires. Many fire officials recommend that every building, including residences, have fire sprinkler systems. Correctly working sprinklers in a residence greatly reduce the risk of death from a fire. With the small rooms typical of a residence, one or two sprinklers can cover most rooms. In the United States, the housing industry trade groups have lobbied at the State level to prevent the requirement for Fire Sprinklers in 1 and 2 bedroom homes.
Other methods of fire prevention are by directing efforts to reduce known hazardous conditions or by preventing dangerous acts before tragedy strikes. This is normally accomplished in many innovative ways such as conducting presentations, distributing safety brochures, providing news articles, writing public safety announcements or establishing meaningful displays in well-visited areas. Ensuring that each household has working smoke alarms, is educated in the proper techniques of fire safety, has an evacuation route and rendezvous point is of top priority in public education for most fire prevention teams in almost all fire department localities.
Fire investigators, who are experienced firefighters trained in fire cause determinism, are dispatched to fire scenes, in order to investigate and determine whether the fire was a result of an accident or intentional. Some fire investigators have full law enforcement powers to investigate and arrest suspected arsonists.

Occupational health and safety

Direct risks


To allow protection from the inherent risks of fighting fires, firefighters wear and carry protective and self-rescue equipment at all times. A self-contained breathing apparatus delivers air to the firefighter through a full face mask and is worn to protect against smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, and super heated gases. A special device called a Personal Alert Safety System is commonly worn independently or as a part of the SCBA to alert others when a firefighter stops moving for a specified period of time or manually operates the device. The PASS device sounds an alarm that can assist another firefighter, or rapid intervention team, in locating the firefighter in distress.
Firefighters often carry personal self-rescue ropes. The ropes are generally 30 feet long and can provide a firefighter a partially controlled exit out of an elevated window. Lack of a personal rescue rope is cited in the deaths of two New York City Firefighters, Lt. John Bellew and Lt. Curtis Meyran, who died after they jumped from the fourth floor of a burning apartment building in the Bronx. Of the four firefighters who jumped and survived, only one of them had a self-rescue rope. Since the incident, the Fire Department of New York City has issued self-rescue ropes to their firefighters.
Heat injury is a major issue for firefighters as they wear insulated clothing and cannot shed the heat generated from physical exertion. Early detection of heat issues is critical to stop dehydration and heat stress becoming fatal. Early onset of heat stress affects cognitive function which combined with operating in dangerous environment makes heat stress and dehydration a critical issue to monitor. Firefighter physiological status monitoring is showing promise in alerting EMS and commanders to the status of their people on the fire ground. Devices such as PASS device alert 10–20 seconds after a firefighter has stopped moving in a structure. Physiological status monitors measure a firefighter's vital sign status, fatigue and exertion levels and transmit this information over their voice radio. This technology allows a degree of early warning to physiological stress. These devices are similar to technology developed for Future Force Warrior and give a measure of exertion and fatigue. They also tell the people outside a building when they have stopped moving or fallen. This allows a supervisor to call in additional engines before the crew get exhausted and also gives an early warning to firefighters before they run out of air, as they may not be able to make voice calls over their radio. Current OSHA tables exist for heat injury and the allowable amount of work in a given environment based on temperature, humidity and solar loading.
Firefighters are also at risk for developing rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue and has many causes including heat exposure, high core body temperature, and prolonged, intense exertion. Routine firefighter tasks, such as carrying extra weight of equipment and working in hot environments, can increase firefighters’ risk for rhabdomyolysis.

Structural collapses

Another leading cause of death during firefighting is structural collapse of a burning building. Structural collapse, which often occurs without warning, may crush or trap firefighters inside the structure. To avoid loss of life, all on-duty firefighters should maintain two-way communication with the incident commander and be equipped with a personal alert safety system device on all fire scenes and maintain radio communication on all incidents. Francis Brannigan was the founder and greatest contributor to this element of firefighter safety.

Traffic collisions

In the United States, 25% of fatalities of firefighters are caused by traffic collisions while responding to or returning from an incident. Other firefighters have been injured or killed by vehicles at the scene of a fire or emergency. A common measure fire departments have taken to prevent this is to require firefighters to wear a bright yellow reflective vest over their turnout coats if they have to work on a public road, to make them more visible to passing drivers. In addition to the direct dangers of firefighting, cardiovascular diseases account for approximately 45% of on duty firefighter deaths.


Firefighters have sometimes been assaulted by members of the public while responding to calls. These kinds of attacks can cause firefighters to fear for their safety and may cause them to not have full focus on the situation which could result in injury to their selves or the patient.

During debris cleanup

Once extinguished, fire debris cleanup poses several safety and health risks for workers.
Many hazardous substances are commonly found in fire debris. Silica can be found in concrete, roofing tiles, or it may be a naturally occurring element. Occupational exposures to silica dust can cause silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, airway diseases, and some additional non-respiratory diseases. Inhalation of asbestos can result in various diseases including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Sources of metals exposure include burnt or melted electronics, cars, refrigerators, stoves, etc. Fire debris cleanup workers may be exposed to these metals or their combustion products in the air or on their skin. These metals may include beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, nickel, and many more. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are carcinogenic, come from the incomplete combustion of organic materials and are often found as a result of structural and wildland fires.
Safety hazards of fire cleanup include the risk of reignition of smoldering debris, electrocution from downed or exposed electrical lines or in instances where water has come into contact with electrical equipment. Structures that have been burned may be unstable and at risk of sudden collapse.
Standard personal protective equipment for fire cleanup include hard hats, goggles or safety glasses, heavy work gloves, earplugs or other hearing protection, steel-toe boots, and fall protection devices. Hazard controls for electrical injury include assuming all power lines are energized until confirmation they are de-energized, and grounding power lines to guard against electrical feedback, and using appropriate personal protective equipment. Proper respiratory protection can protect against hazardous substances. Proper ventilation of an area is an engineering control that can be used to avoid or minimize exposure to hazardous substances. When ventilation is insufficient or dust cannot be avoided, personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators can be used.

Long-term risks

Cardiovascular disease

Firefighting has long been associated with poor cardiovascular outcomes. In the United States, the most common cause of on-duty fatalities for firefighters is sudden cardiac death. In addition to personal factors that may predispose an individual to coronary artery disease or other cardiovascular diseases, occupational exposures can significantly increase a firefighter's risk. Historically, the fire service blamed poor firefighter physical condition for being the primary cause of cardiovascular related deaths. However, over the last 20 years, studies and research has indicated the toxic gasses put fire service personnel at significantly higher risk for cardiovascular related conditions and death. For instance, carbon monoxide, present in nearly all fire environments, and hydrogen cyanide, formed during the combustion of paper, cotton, plastics, and other substances containing carbon and nitrogen. The substances inside of materials change during combustion their bi-products interfere with the transport of oxygen in the body. Hypoxia can then lead to heart injury. In addition, chronic exposure to particulate matter in smoke is associated with atherosclerosis. Noise exposures may contribute to hypertension and possibly ischemic heart disease. Other factors associated with firefighting, such as stress, heat stress, and heavy physical exertion, also increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
During fire suppression activities a firefighter can reach peak or near peak heart rates which can act as a trigger for a cardiac event. For example, tachycardia can cause plaque buildup to break loose and lodge itself is a small part of the heart causing myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. This along with unhealthy habits and lack of exercise can be very hazardous to firefighter health.


A 2015 retrospective longitudinal study showed that firefighters are at higher risk for certain types of cancer. Firefighters had mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure, at twice the rate of the non-firefighting working population. Younger firefighters also developed bladder cancer and prostate cancer at higher rates than the general population. The risk of bladder cancer may be present in female firefighters, but research is inconclusive as of 2014. Preliminary research from 2015 on a large cohort of US firefighters showed a direct relationship between the number of hours spent fighting fires and lung cancer and leukemia mortality in firefighters. This link is a topic of continuing research in the medical community, as is cancer mortality in general among firefighters.
Firefighters are exposed to a variety of carcinogens at fires, including both carcinogenic chemicals and radiation.
CarcinogenGroup Cancer site
Arsenic1angiosarcoma, lung, skin
Asbestos1mesothelioma and other lung cancers, larynx, gastrointestinal
Benzopyrene1bladder, lung, skin
Carbon black2Bn/a
Polychlorinated biphenyls2An/a
Crystalline silica1lung
Sulfuric acid1n/a
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin1lung, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sarcomas
Tetrachloroethylene2Acervix, esophagus, non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Toluene diisocyanate2Bn/a
Trichloroethylene2Abiliary tract, liver, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney

Mental stress

As with other emergency workers, firefighters may witness traumatic scenes during their careers. They are thus more vulnerable than most people to certain mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Among women in the US, the occupations with the highest suicide rates are police and firefighters, with a rate of 14.1 per 100 000, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC. Chronic stress over time attributes to symptoms that affect first responders, such as anxiousness, irritability, nervousness, memory and concentration problems can occur overtime which can lead to anxiety and depression. Mental stress can have long lasting affects on the brain. A 2014 report from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation found that a fire department is three times more likely to experience a suicide in a given year than a line-of-duty death. Mental stress of the job can lead to substance abuse and alcohol abuse as ways of coping with the stress. The mental stress of fire fighting has a lot of different causes. There are those they see on duty and also what they miss by being on duty. Firefighters schedules fluctuate by district. There are stations where fire fighters work 48 hours on and 48 hours off. Some allow 24 hours on and 72 hours off. The mental impact of missing your child's first steps or a ballet recital can take a heavy impact on first responders. There is also the stress of being on opposite shifts as your spouse or being away from family.

Occupational hearing loss

Another long-term risk factor from firefighting is exposure to high levels of sound, which can cause noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. NIHL affects sound frequencies between 3,000 and 6,000 Hertz first, then with more frequent exposure, will spread to more frequencies. Many consonants will be more difficult to hear or inaudible with NIHL because of the higher frequencies effected, which results in poorer communication. NIHL is caused by exposure to sound levels at or above 85dBA according to NIOSH and at or above 90dBA according to OSHA. dBA represents A-weighted decibels. dBA is used for measuring sound levels relating to occupational sound exposure since it attempts to mimic the sensitivity of the human ear to different frequencies of sound. OSHA uses a 5-dBA exchange rate, which means that for every 5dBA increase in sound from 90dBA, the acceptable exposure time before a risk of permanent hearing loss occurs decreases by half. NIOSH uses a 3-dBA exchange rate starting at 8 hours acceptable exposure time at 85dBA.
The time of exposure required to potentially cause damage depends on the level of sound exposed to. The most common causes of excessive sound exposure are sirens, transportation to and from fires, fire alarms, and work tools. Traveling in an emergency vehicle has shown to expose a person to between 103 and 114dBA of sound. According to OSHA, exposure at this level is acceptable for between 17 and 78 minutes and according to NIOSH is acceptable for between 35 seconds and 7.5 minutes over a 24-hour day before permanent hearing loss can occur. This time period considers that no other high level sound exposure occurs in that 24-hour time frame. Sirens often output about 120 dBA, which according to OSHA, 7.5 minutes of exposure is needed and according to NIOSH, 9 seconds of exposure is needed in a 24-hour time period before permanent hearing loss can occur. In addition to high sound levels, another risk factor for hearing disorders is the co-exposure to chemicals that are ototoxic.
The average day of work for a firefighter can often be under the sound exposure limit for both OSHA and NIOSH. While the average day of sound exposure as a firefighter is often under the limit, firefighters can be exposed to impulse noise, which has a very low acceptable time exposure before permanent hearing damage can occur due to the high intensity and short duration.
There are also high rates of hearing loss, often NIHL, in firefighters, which increases with age and number of years working as a firefighter. Hearing loss prevention programs have been implemented in multiple stations and have shown to help lower the rate of firefighters with NIHL. Other attempts have been made to lower sound exposures for firefighters, such as enclosing the cabs of the firetrucks to lower the siren exposure while driving. NFPA is responsible for occupational health programs and standards in firefighters which discusses what hearing sensitivity is required to work as a firefighter, but also enforces baseline and annual hearing tests. While NIHL can be a risk that occurs from working as a firefighter, NIHL can also be a safety concern for communicating while doing the job as communicating with coworkers and victims is essential for safety. Hearing protection devices have been used by firefighters in the United States. Earmuffs are the most commonly used hearing protection device as they are the most easy to put on correctly in a quick manner. Multiple fire departments have used HPDs that have communication devices built in, allowing firefighters to speak with each other at safe, but audible sound levels, while lowering the hazardous sound levels around them.

Types of coverage and workload

In a country with a comprehensive fire service, fire departments must be able to send firefighters to emergencies at any hour of day or night, to arrive on the scene within minutes. In urban areas, this means that full-time paid firefighters usually have shift work, with some providing cover each night. On the other hand, it may not be practical to employ full-time firefighters in villages and isolated small towns, where their services may not be required for days at a time. For this reason, many fire departments have firefighters who spend long periods on call to respond to infrequent emergencies; they may have regular jobs outside of firefighting. Whether they are paid or not varies by country. In the United States and Germany, volunteer fire departments provide most of the cover in rural areas. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, by contrast, actual volunteers are rare. Instead, "retained firefighters" are paid for responding to incidents, along with a small salary for spending long periods of time on call.

Firefighting around the world

A key difference between many country's fire services is what the balance is between full-time and volunteer firefighters. In the United States and United Kingdom, large metropolitan fire departments are almost entirely made up of full-time firefighters. On the other hand, in Germany and Austria, volunteers play a substantial role even in the largest fire departments, including Berlin's, which serves a population of 3.6 million. Regardless of how this balance works, a common feature is that smaller urban areas have a mix of full-time and volunteer/on-call firefighters. This is known in the United States as a combination fire department. In Chile and Peru, all firefighters are volunteers.
Another point of variation is how the fire services are organized. Some countries like Israel and New Zealand have a single national fire service. Others like Australia, the United Kingdom and France organize fire services based on regions or sub-national states. In the United States, Germany and Canada, fire departments are run at a municipal level.
Atypically, Singapore and many parts of Switzerland have fire service conscription. In Germany, conscription can also be used if a village does not have a functioning fire service. Other unusual arrangements are seen in France, where two of the country's fire services are part of the armed forces, and Denmark, where most fire services are run by private companies.
Another way in which a firefighter's work varies around the world is the nature of firefighting equipment and tactics. For example, American fire departments make heavier use of aerial appliances, and are often split between engine and ladder companies. In Europe, where the size and usefulness of aerial appliances are often limited by narrow streets, they are only used for rescues, and firefighters can rotate between working on an engine and an aerial appliance.
A final point in variation is how involved firefighters are in emergency medical services.

Communication and command structure

The expedient and accurate handling of fire alarms or calls are significant factors in the successful outcome of any incident. Fire department communications play a critical role in that successful outcome. Fire department communications include the methods by which the public can notify the communications center of an emergency, the methods by which the center can notify the proper fire fighting forces, and the methods by which information is exchanged at the scene. One method is to use a megaphone to communicate.
A telecommunicator has a role different from but just as important as other emergency personnel. The telecommunicator must process calls from unknown and unseen individuals, usually calling under stressful conditions. He/she must be able to obtain complete, reliable information from the caller and prioritize requests for assistance. It is the dispatcher's responsibility to bring order to chaos.
While some fire departments are large enough to utilize their own telecommunication dispatcher, most rural and small areas rely on a central dispatcher to provide handling of fire, rescue, and police services.
Firefighters are trained to use communications equipment to receive alarms, give and receive commands, request assistance, and report on conditions. Since firefighters from different agencies routinely provide mutual aid to each other, and routinely operate at incidents where other emergency services are present, it is essential to have structures in place to establish a unified chain of command, and share information between agencies. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has established a National Incident Management System. One component of this system is the Incident Command System.
All radio communication in the United States is under authorization from the Federal Communications Commission ; as such, fire departments that operate radio equipment must have radio licenses from the FCC.
Ten codes were popular in the early days of radio equipment because of poor transmission and reception. Advances in modern radio technology have reduced the need for ten-codes and many departments have converted to simple English.


Many firefighters are sworn members with command structures similar to the military and police. They do not have general police powers, but have specific powers of enforcement and control in fire and emergency situations.
The basic unit of an American fire department is a "company", a group of firefighters who typically work on the same engine. A "crew" or "platoon" is a subdivision of a company who work on the same shift. Commonwealth fire services are more likely to be organized around a "watch", who work the same shift on multiple engines.


New South Wales Rural Fire Service
Operational RankMembership TypeInsignia
CommissionerNSW Government Senior Executive Service Officer
Assistant CommissionerNSW Government Senior Executive Service Officer
Chief SuperintendentNSW Government Public Service Officer
SuperintendentNSW Government Public Service Officer
InspectorNSW Government Public Service Officer
Group CaptainVolunteer
Deputy Group CaptainVolunteer
Senior Deputy CaptainVolunteer
Deputy CaptainVolunteer
Fire FighterVolunteer


New rank structure of 2015.


Ranks amongst Canadian firefighters vary across the country and ranking appears mostly with larger departments:
Probationary Firefighterno rank
Second Class Firefighterno rank
First Class Firefighterno rank
Captain2 silver epaulette stripes
District Chief2 gold stripes
Platoon Chief3 gold stripes
Division Commander3 thick and 1 thin gold stripes
Deputy Fire Chief4 gold stripes
Fire Chief5 gold stripes

Firefighter/Firefighter Instructorno rank
Interim Lieutenant1 white stripes
Lieutenant/Lieutenant Instructor2 white stripes
Captain3 white stripes
Operations Chief1 thick yellow stripes
Division Chief1 thick and 1 thin yellow stripes
Assistant Chief1 thick and 2 thin yellow stripes
Deputy Chief1 thick and 3 thin yellow stripes
Fire Chief1 thick and 4 thin yellow stripes plus star

Fire ChiefDeputy Fire ChiefAssistant ChiefBattalion ChiefTraining OfficerCaptainLieutenantFirefighterProbationary Firefighter
Rank EpaulettesNo InsigniaNo Insignia
Rank PinsNo InsigniaNo Insignia


Ranks are divided between Company Officers and Fire Department Officers, which can be subdivided between Active Officers and Administrative Officers each. The active officers are the captain, and three or four lieutenants, these four active officers are distinguished by red lines on their helmets.


Most fire brigades in Commonwealth countries have a more "civilianised" nomenclature, structured in a traditional manner. For example, the common structure in United Kingdom brigades is:
RankCollar/epaulette markingsHelmet colour/patternForm of address
Firefighter TraineeRedYellow helmet, often with the Trainee's surname written across to allow trainers to identify them-
Firefighter Development-Yellow helmet with a red diamond indicating the Firefighter is capable of responding to fire calls, but is in the final stage of their training-
Firefighter-Yellow helmet with no marking indicates a "competent" firefighter.-
Crew ManagerTwo chrome bars on blueYellow helmet with two 12.5mm horizontal black stripesCrew
Watch ManagerTwo impellers on blueWhite helmet with one 12.5mm horizontal black stripeWatch
Station ManagerThree impellers on blueWhite helmet with one 19mm horizontal black stripeSir/Ma'am
Group ManagerOne impeller inside wreath on blueWhite helmet with one 12.5mm and one 19mm horizontal black stripesSir/Ma'am
Area ManagerOne chrome bar and one impeller inside wreath on blueWhite helmet with two 19mm horizontal black stripesSir/Ma'am
Deputy Chief Fire OfficerOne chrome bar, one impeller and one large impeller inside wreath on blueWhite helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripeSir/Ma'am
Chief Fire OfficerTwo impellers and one large impeller inside wreath on blueWhite helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripeSir/Ma'am



French civilian fire services, which historically are derived from French army sapper units, use French Army ranks. The highest rank in many departments is full colonel. Only the NCO rank of major is used in both the Paris Fire Brigade and the Marseille Naval Fire Battalion; since 2013 it has been abolished in the other fire departments.
; Ministry of Interior
;Civilian Fire Services
;Civilian Fire Services
;Civilian Fire Services
;Civilian Fire Services
In Germany every federal state has its own civil protection laws thus they have different rank systems. Additionally, in the volunteer fire departments, there is a difference between a rank and an official position. This is founded on the military traditions of the fire departments. Every firefighter can hold a high rank without having an official position. A firefighter can be promoted by years of service, training skills and qualifications. Official positions are partly elected or given by capabilities. These conditions allow that older ordinary firefighters have higher ranks than their leaders. But through this ranks are no authorities given.
;Professional Fire Fighters of Rheinland-Pfalz
Completed vocational training in a technical occupation suitable for the fire service. Basic firefighter training.
;Professional Fire Fighters of Rheinland-Pfalz
Bachelor of Engineering and two years departmental training.
;Professional Fire Fighters of Rheinland-Pfalz
Master of Engineering and two years of departmental training.
;Helmet insignia of Rheinland-Pfalz


Firefighters in Indonesia form part of the civil service of local governments and wear variant forms of uniforms worn by civil servants and employees.
Rank categoryRank category numberRank in IndonesianEquivalent rank
Rank in English
Commissioners GeneralIV/ePembina UtamaPermanent Secretary
Senior Executive Service Level III
Commissioner General
Commissioners GeneralIV/dPembina Utama MadyaDirector General
Senior Executive Service Level III,
Pay Band 3 A7
Deputy Commissioner General
Commissioners GeneralIV/cPembina Utama MudaDirector
Senior Executive Service Level IV,
Pay Band 2 A7
Superintendent General
Commissioners GeneralIV/bPembina Tingkat IDeputy Director
Senior Executive Service Level V,
Pay Band 1 A7
Fire Director
Commissioners GeneralIV/aPembinaAssistant Director
GS-15, Grade 6 A6
Senior ranked officersIII/dPenata Tingkat ISenior Executive Officer 1st class
GS-14, Grade 7 A5
Chief Superintendent
Senior ranked officersIII/cPenataSenior Executive Officer
GS-13, Grade 7 A4
Senior ranked officersIII/bPenata Muda Tingkat IHigher Executive Officer
GS-12, A3
Battalion Chief
Junior ranked officersIII/aPenata MudaExecutive Officer 1st class
GS-11, A2/B6
Fire Captain
Junior ranked officersII/dPengatur Tingkat IExecutive Officer 2nd class
GS-10, A2/B6
Fire Lieutenant
Junior ranked officersII/cPengaturExecutive Officer
GS-9, A1/B5
Divisional Inspector
Senior clerical officialsII/bPengatur Muda Tingkat IAdministrative Officer Class 1
GS-8, B4
Station Sub-officer
Senior clerical officialsII/aPengatur MudaAdministrative Officer Class 2
GS-7, B4
Sergeant Major
Junior clerical officialsI/dJuru Tingkat IHigher Clerical Officer 1st class
GS-6/GS-5, B3
Junior clerical officialsI/cJuluHigher Clerical Officer
GS-4/GS-3, B3
Junior clerical officialsI/bJulu Muda Tingkat IClerical Officer
GS-2, B2
Leading Firefighter
Junior clerical officialsI/aJulu MudaAdministrative Assistant
GS-1, B1


The Vigili del Fuoco, have the official name of Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco.
The CNVVF is the Italian institutional agency for fire and rescue service. It is part of the Ministry of Interior's Department of Firefighters, Public Rescue and Public Protection. The CNVVF task is to provide safety for people, animals and property, and control the compliance of buildings and industries to fire safety rules. The Ministry of the Interior, through the CNVVF, adopts fire safety rules with ministerial decrees or other lower rank documents. The CNVVF also ensures public rescue in emergencies that involves the use of chemical weapons, bacteriological, radiological and materials. Since 2012 the Corps uses its own rank titles with matching military styled insignia in honor of its origins.
In 2016 the CNVVF has been committed in forest firefighting activities together with the regional forest agencies, following the suppression of the National Forest Guards, which were merged into the Carabinieri.
unit parading in Rome.
Directors general
Dirigente generale capo del corpo
Dirigente generale
Dirigente superiore
Primo dirigente
Direttore vice dirigente
Vice direttore
Substitute Fire Directors
Sostituto direttore antincendi capo
Sostituto direttore antincendi
Fire inspectors
Ispettore antincendi esperto
Ispettore antincendi
Vice ispettore antincendi
Non-commissioned officers
Capo reparto esperto
Capo reparto
Capo squadra esperto
Capo squadra
Enlisted firefighters
Vigile coordinatore
Vigile esperto
Vigile qualificato
Vigile del fuoco
Volunteer firefighters
Funzionario tecnico antincendi
Capo reparto volontario
Capo squadra volontario
Vigile volontario


In Iran, every city has its own fire department, but ranks are the same in the whole country, and are as follows:
RankPersianCollar/epaulette markingsCollar/epaulette markings
Volunteer Firefighter Iآتش نشان داوطلبOne yellow barیک خط زرد
Volunteer Firefighter IIآتش نشان داوطلب دومTwo yellow barsدو خط زرد
Volunteer Firefighter IIIآتش نشان داوطلب سومThree yellow barsسه خط زرد
Firefighter Iآتش نشانOne silver barیک خط نقره ای
Firefighter IIآتش نشان دومTwo silver barsدو خط نقره ای
Firefighter IIIآتش نشان سومThree silver barsسه خط نقره ای
Head Firefighter Iسرآتش نشانOne flame and one gold barیک شعله و یک خط طلایی
Head Firefighter IIسرآتش نشان دومOne flame and Two gold barsیک شعله و دو خط طلایی
Head Firefighter IIIسرآتش نشان سومOne flame and Three gold barsیک شعله و سه خط طلایی
Master Firefighter Iسر آتش یارOne flameیک شعله
Master Firefighter IIآتش یارTwo flamesدو شعله
Master Firefighter IIIآتش یار دومThree flamesسه شعله
Master Firefighter IVآتش یار سومFour flamesچهار شعله
Chief Firefighter Iآتش پادOne empty gold wreathیک حلقه گل طلایی خالی
Chief Firefighter IIآتش پاد دومOne gold wreath with a flame insideیک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش
Chief Firefighter IIIآتش پاد سومOne gold wreath with a flame inside and a silver bar below themیک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و یک خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter Iفرآتش پادOne gold wreath with a flame inside and two silver bars below themیک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و دو خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter IIفرآتش پاد دومOne gold wreath with a flame inside and three silver bars below themیک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و سه خط نقره ای زیر آنها
Chief master Firefighter IIIفرآتش پاد سومOne gold wreath with a flame inside and four silver bars below themیک حلقه گل طلایی با یک شعله درونش و چهار خط نقره ای زیر آنها


In Ireland, the traditional brigade rank structure is still adopted. Below is the common structure for most brigades, Cork and Dublin Fire Brigade have additional ranks:
RankHelmet colour/markings
FirefighterPlain Yellow Helmet)
Leading Firefighter/Driver Mechanic in retained brigadesYellow Helmet with one 12.5mm horizontal black stripe
Sub OfficerYellow Helmet with two 12mm black stripes
Station OfficerWhite helmet with one 19mm horizontal black stripe
Assistant Chief Fire Officer?
Senior Assistant Chief Fire OfficerWhite helmet with one 38mm horizontal black stripe
Chief Fire OfficerWhite helmet with two 38mm horizontal black stripe


Japanese Fire Department's rank insignias are place on a small badge and pinned above the right pocket. Rank is told by stripes and Hexagram stars. The design of the insignias came from older Japanese style military insignias. Officers and Team Leaders could wear an arm band on the arm of fire jacket to show status as command leader. Sometimes rank can be shown as different color fire jacket for command staff. The color whites and gray are reserved for EMS. Orange is reserved for rescuer.


Grand-Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps of Luxembourg.



New Zealand

In New Zealand, rank is shown on epaulettes on firefighters' station uniform, and through colors and stripes on firefighter helmets. As the nation only has a single fire department, the New Zealand Fire Service, ranks are consistent through the country.
Trainee Firefighter plainfluro-green
Firefighter one hollow baryellow
Qualified Firefighter one solid baryellow, one red stripe
Senior Firefighter two solid barsyellow, two red stripes
Station Officer one impellerred, one blue stripe
Senior Station Officer two impellersred, two blue stripes
Deputy Chief Fire Officer impeller between two ferns below one impellerwhite, one blue stripe
Chief Fire Officer impeller between two ferns below two impellerswhite, two blue stripes
Assistant Area Commander three impellerssilver
Area Commander one impeller below a crownsilver, one blue stripe
Assistant National Commander three impellers trefoil below a crownsilver, two blue stripes
Deputy National Commander silver crossed sword and baton below an impellerblack
National Commander silver crossed sword and baton below a crownblack


Russian Federation

In the Russian Federation, the decals are applied symmetrically on both sides of the helmet. The location of the decals on the special clothing and SCBA is established for each fire department of the same type within the territorial entity. The following ranks are used by State Fire Service civilian personnel, while military personnel use ranks similar to those of the Police of Russia, due to their pre-2001 history as the fire service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation before all firefighting services were transferred to the Ministry of Emergency Situations.
RankHelmet colour/markings
FirefighterThe all color helmet with the applied number, indicating the fire station
Head of fire brigadeThe all color helmet with the applied number, indicating the fire station, underlined by line 50 mm wide and 5 mm thick
Head of duty shift fire stationThe all color helmet with the applied a circle, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Deputy Head of the fire stationThe all color helmet with the applied a triangle, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Head of the fire stationThe all color helmet with the applied a square, inside which the applied number is indicating the fire station
Commanding staff of the fire departmentThe all color helmet with the applied a circle, inside which the applied a rhombus


Tunisian firefighter's ranks are actually the same as the army, police and national garde.

United Kingdom

;London Fire Brigade
Rank titleRank marking
Leading Firefighter
Station Officer
Station Manager
Group Manager
Deputy Assistant Commissioner
Assistant Commissioner
Deputy Commissioner
Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning

United States of America

In the United States, helmet colors often denote a fire fighter's rank or position. In general, white helmets denote chief officers, while red helmets may denote company officers, but the specific meaning of a helmet's color or style varies from region to region and department to department. The rank of an officer in an American fire department is most commonly denoted by a number of speaking trumpets, a reference to a megaphone-like device used in the early days of the fire service, although typically called "bugle" in today's parlance. Ranks proceed from one to five bugles. Traditional ranks in American fire departments that exist but may not always be utilized in all cities or towns include:
In many fire departments in the U.S., the captain is commonly the commander of a company and a lieutenant is the supervisor of the company's firefighters on shift. There is no state or federal rank structure for firefighters and each municipality or volunteer fire department creates and uses their own unique structure.
Still, some other American fire departments such the FDNY use military rank insignia in addition or instead of the traditional bugles. Additionally, officers on truck companies have been known to use rank insignias shaped like axes for Lieutenants and Captains.

Firefighter equipment

A partial list of some equipment typically used by firefighters:
Although people have fought fires since there have been valuable things to burn, the first instance of organized professionals combating structural fires occurred in
ancient Egypt. Likewise, fire fighters of the Roman Republic existed solely as privately organized and funded groups that operated more similarly to a business than a public service; however, during the Principate period, Augustus revolutionized firefighting by calling for the creation of a fire guard that was trained, paid, and equipped by the state, thereby commissioning the first truly public and professional firefighting service. Known as the Vigiles, they were organised into cohorts, serving as a night watch and city police force.
The earliest American fire departments were volunteers, including the volunteer fire company in New Amsterdam, now known as New York. Fire companies were composed of citizens who volunteered their time to help protect the community. As time progressed and new towns were established throughout the region, there was a sharp increase in the number of volunteer departments.
In 1853, the first career fire department in the United States was established in Cincinnati, Ohio, followed four years later by St. Louis Fire Department. Large cities began establishing paid, full-time staff in order to try facilitate greater call volume.
City fire departments draw their funding directly from city taxes and share the same budget as other public works like the police department and trash services. The primary difference between municipality departments and city departments is the funding source. Municipal fire departments do not share their budget with any other service and are considered to be private entities within a jurisdiction. This means that they have their own taxes that feed into their budgeting needs. City fire departments report to the mayor, whereas municipal departments are accountable to elected board officials who help maintain and run the department along with the chief officer staff.


Funds for firefighting equipment may be raised by the firefighters themselves, especially in the case of volunteer organizations. Events such as pancake breakfasts and chili feeds are common in the United States. Social events are used to raise money include dances, fairs, and car washes.

Notable firefighters

  • James Braidwood, founder of the municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh, 1824
  • John Decker, chief of the New York City department during the 1863 draft riots
  • Raúl Gándara-Cartagena, first and longest-serving Puerto Rico commonwealth fire chief
  • James J. Kenney, Berkeley, California, politician, the city's first fire chief
  • Louis R. Nowell, Los Angeles, California, City Council member, a firefighter for 23 years
  • Chip Prather, second chief of the Orange County, California, Fire Authority
  • Vladimir Pravik, Soviet firefighter who worked in the Chernobyl disaster, died on 11 May from acute radiation sickness
  • Joseph Pfeifer, New York City, New York, Chief of counterterrorism and emergency preparedness, was the first to make an official report of 9/11 and headed the operations at WTC
  • Walter Thomas, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, the longest serving firefighter in Canada
  • Gary Speakman, former wholetime firefighter for GMFRS in the UK, two-time Guinness World Record holder for running marathons in full fire department uniform and breathing apparatus. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.