Boston Fire Department
|Boston Fire Department (BFD)|
|"First in the Nation"|
|Annual calls||74,191 (2013)|
68 fire alarm operators
|Commissioner||Joseph E. Finn|
|Facilities & Equipment|
|Ladders||23 (2 Tower Ladders)|
|EMS Level||BLS First Responder|
The Boston Fire Department (BFD) provides fire protection and first responder emergency medical services to the city of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. In addition to fire protection, the Boston Fire Department responds to a variety of emergencies such as, but not limited to, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material spills, electrical hazards, floods, and construction accidents.
The Boston Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in New England and serves approximately 636,000 people living in a 47-square-mile (120 km2) area of the city proper and provides additional mutual aid to 32 surrounding communities of the Greater Boston Metro Area, including Logan International Airport.
The Headquarters of the Boston Fire Department is located at 115 Southampton Street in the Roxbury section of the city. The Boston Fire Academy is located on Moon Island in Boston Harbor.
The Boston Fire Department responded to 74,191 emergency calls in 2013.
- 1 History
- 2 Organization
- 3 Operations
- 4 Communications
- 5 Notable Fires
- 6 External links
- 7 References
The Boston Fire Department traces its roots back to 1631, a year after the city was founded, when the first fire ordinance was adopted. In what then was the Massachusetts Bay Colony of the Kingdom of England, the city banned thatched roofs and wooden chimneys. However, it wasn't until 1653 that the first hand engine was appropriated to provide pressure for water lines.
In 1678, the city founded a paid fire department, and hired Thomas Atkins to be the first fire chief. On February 1, 1711, the town appointed a group of Fire Wards, each responsible for the operation and maintenance of equipment assigned to a region of the city. The grandfather and great grandfather of Herman Melville, Thomas Melvill, served as a town fire ward from 1779 to 1825, and Allen Melvill, served as an early firefighter 1733 to 1761.
It was not until 1799 that the first leather fire hose was used, after being imported from England.
The department underwent its first reorganization in 1837 when the hand engine department reorganized, reducing the number of active engines to fourteen. By December 31, 1858, the department had 14 hand engines, 3 hook and ladder carriages, and 6 hydrant (hose) carriages. On November 1, 1859, Engine Co. 8 began service as the first steam engine in the department. The reorganization of 1859-60 replaced the department's 14 hand engines with 11 new steam engines, forming the departmental hierarchy still used today.
The department was the first in the world to utilize the telegraph to alert fire fighters of an emergency, installing the system in 1851. The first fire alarm was transmitted via the Fire Alarm Telegraph system on April 29, 1852.
The famous Boston fire of 1872 led to the appointment of a board of fire commissioners. The Boston Fire Department also provided assistance in the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908 and the Great Salem Fire of 1914.
On July 29, 1910, the department purchased its first motorized apparatus. From 1914 until 1923, horse drawn engines as well as steam and motorized engine companies were in use in Boston. Ladder 24 was the last company to replace its horses in 1923 when it became motorized. In 1925, the last fire horses were retired. It wasn't until 1926 that the last steam engine was converted to a motorized engine. The department first started using radio communication in 1925, installing radios in the fireboats, chiefs' cars, and rescue companies.
By 1960, the department operated 48 engines, 29 ladders, 1 rescue, and 2 fireboats. By the end of the decade, the standard 85-foot (26 m) ladder trucks were replaced by 100-foot (30 m) aerial ladders with tillers.
Also in the early '80s, the Department experienced a dramatic number of cutbacks due to budget cuts. The number of Engine Companies dropped from 43 to 33, the Fire Brigade was disbanded (only to be reopened in the mid-80's), the number of Ladder Companies went from 28 to 21, and one of the two Tower Companies was disbanded and reduced to a regular Ladder Company (bringing the total to 22 Ladder Companies). Rescue 2 was disbanded, but reorganized in 1986.
2007 Boston bomb scare
On January 31, 2007, the department, Boston Police, and the DHS had to act agile to dispose LED advertisements resembling the mooninite characters of the Cartoon Network show Aqua Teen Hungerforce for its movie which had premiered at the time, Aqua teen hunger force colon movie film for theaters as perpetrated by two males named "Sean Stevens" and "Steven Bardovsky". Both of them were hired by Turner Broadcasting, Interference, Inc., and Cartoon Network to display the aforementioned advertisements throughout the entire city and were mistaken for homemade explosives. This resulted in panic, fear, strife, unrest, disorder, wrath, and rioting to Boston's citizens, and criminal liability to Turner, Interference, and Cartoon Network. And in the aftermath of this calamity, it led to the resignation of Cartoon network's original manager who was later replaced by one of his employees.
- Fire Suppression — The most visible members of the department, this division provides the fire protection and rescue services for the city of Boston. The services provided include fire fighting, medical evaluation, vehicle extrication, hazardous material response, confined space rescue, structural collapse rescue, trench collapse rescue, and more. The department operates engine companies, ladder companies, and rescue companies, each providing distinctly separate services at a fire or other emergency.
- Fire Prevention — This division is responsible for maintaining records, granting permits, conducting public education, and inspecting buildings.
- Training, Maintenance and Research — This division supervises the development of the fire fighters from probation to retirement. Also, the division conducts research to improve techniques and equipment, evaluating new tools before their implementation. The Emergency Medical Services and the Safety Operations Unit are also within this division.
- Special Projects — This division was created in January 1992 to monitor the safety of the Boston Harbor Project and the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. The activities of the division include plans review, permit issuance, and inspections. With the completion of the Boston Harbor Project, the division now only monitors the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.
- Office of Strategic Planning — This division was established in 1996 to replace the Special Services Division, providing the city with an Incident Command System, Office of Emergency Management, and Local Emergency Planning Committee.
- Information and Technology — This division maintains and improves technological appliances of the department, such as automated external defibrillators (AED), computers, and communications devices. From 2003−06, the division installed mobile data terminals (MDT) in all engine and ladder companies as well as command vehicles.
- Personnel — This division includes the Administration Section, Selection Unit, Medical Office, Personnel Assignments of Officer’s Section, and the Employees Assistant Program. The division keeps the records of each fire fighter, communicates with other departments, unions, and agencies, and hears grievances, disciplinary hearings, and appeals.
- Fire Commissioner
- Deputy Fire Commissioner
- Chief of Department
- Deputy Chief
- Deputy Division Chief
- District Chief
- Senior Firefighter
- Probationary Firefighter
Apparatus Profile (2014)
Frontline Fire Companies
- 34 Engine Companies (E2, E3, E4, E5, E7, E8, E9, E10, E14, E16, E17, E18, E20, E21, E22, E24, E28, E29, E30, E32, E33, E37, E39, E41, E42, E48, E49, E50, E51, E52, E53, E54*, E55, E56)
- 21 Ladder Companies (L1, L2, L4, L6, L7, L9, L11, L14, L15, L16, L17, L18, L19, L21, L23, L24, L25, L26, L28, L29, L31*)
- 2 Tower Ladder Companies (TL3 & TL10)
- 2 Heavy Rescue Companies (R1 & R2)
- 3 Fireboats (M1, M2, M3)
(*)Engine 54 and Ladder 31 are part of the BFD's Fire Brigade on Long Island in Boston Harbor.
Command Units and Chiefs
- 9 District Chief's Units (D1, D3, D4, D6, D7, D8, D9, D11, D12)
- 2 Deputy Division Chief's Units (C6 & C7)
- 1 Safety District Chief's Unit(H1)
- 1 Special Operations Command District Chief's Unit(T1)
Special and Support Units
- 2 Brush Fire Units (BFU48 & BFU55)
- 1 Special/Lighting Unit (H2)
- 1 Haz-Mat. Unit (H3)
- 2 Technical Support Units(T.S.U.) (H4 & H8)
- 2 Decontamination(Decon.) Units (H5 & H7)
- 1 Collapse Rescue Unit (H6)
- 1 Dive Unit (J20)
- 1 Air Supply Unit (W12)
- 1 Fireground Rehabilitation(Rehab.)/Mass Casualty Unit (W25)
- 2 Special Operations/Haz-Mat. Support Units
- 1 Field/Command Tactical(Comm. Tac.) Unit (TCU)
- 1 Communications Unit
- 1 Personnel Transport Unit (W10)
- 1 Arson Unit
- 2 Canteen Units (A10 & A12) (Managed by the Boston Sparks Club)
- Numerous other special, reserve, and support/staff units
In January 2014, due to the temporary closing of the Callahan Tunnel to East Boston, the BFD placed an additional Engine Company in service at the quarters of Engine 9/Ladder 2 in East Boston, designated as Engine 11.
Fire Station Locations
The BFD currently operations 2 Divisions and 9 Districts in the city. Division 1 commands a total of 5 Districts and Division 2 commands a total of 4 Districts. Division 1 commands the following Districts: District 1, District 3, District 4, District 6, and District 11. Division 2 commands the following Districts: District 7, District 8, District 9, and District 12.
Each Division is commanded by a Deputy Chief and each District is commanded by a District Chief, similar to a Battalion chief, who supervises 3-5 Fire Stations and their respective fire companies. There is also a Safety District Chief, who serves as the Incident Safety Officer(I.S.O.) at fires and large-scale incidents, as well as a Special Operations District Chief, who supervises the specialized companies and units at large-scale fire and rescue incidents. Each District Chief is also assigned a Chief's Aide.
Fire Headquarters is located at 115 Southampton St. in Roxbury and opened on August 6, 1951. Fire Headquarters also houses the Maintenance Facility/Motor Pool and the repair shop for the Fire Alarm Office.
In 2013, the Boston Fire Department announced that, with the exception of H1, the Safety District Chief, all Special Operations "H" Units would be classified based on their function. For example, H6 will become Collapse Rescue 1, H7 will become Decon. 1, J20 will become the Dive Unit, etc.
The Boston Fire Department's Training Academy is located on Moon Island in Boston Harbor and opened on November 3, 1960.
The Marine Unit of the BFD is located at Burrough's Wharf in the North End and houses the 3 Fireboats or Marine Units. The Marine Unit responds to approximately 500−600 emergency calls annually.
The Boston Fire Department also operates a High-Pressure Pumping Station at 175 Kneeland St. in Downtown and contains 17 miles of underground piping throughout the Downtown area. The system can provide pressurized water to the many pressurized fire hydrants in the Downtown area.
The Boston Fire Department's Communications Center, or Fire Alarm Office(F.A.O.), is the main dispatching center for receiving and transmitting alarms. Alarms in Boston are received either by phone, radio, or from one of the many fire alarm boxes located throughout the city.
The Fire Alarm Office(F.A.O.) is located at 59 Fenway in the Back Bay and opened on December 27, 1925. From 1895 to 1925, the Fire Alarm Office was located at 60 Bristol St. in the South End.
Structure Fire Response
Below is a listing of the response protocol for reports of structural fires.
Here is a typical fire response as transmitted over the radio by a member of the Fire Alarm Office receiving the emergency call:
"Tones...In District 4, striking Box 1-5-8-3, Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue, for ___ Beacon Street...Box 1-5-8-3, Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue, struck for # ___ Beacon Street, Apartment __. Companies responding to and working at Box 1-5-8-3, Channel # 2 is the fireground. Calling Car 4..."
|Alarm Type||Alarm Level||Assigned Units|
|Central Station Alarm||Still Alarm Assignment||1 Engine, 1 Ladder|
|Brush/Large Outside Fire||Still Alarm Assignment||2 Engines, 1 District Chief, 1 Brush Fire Unit|
|Box Alarm||1st Alarm Assignment||4 Engines (1 for R.I.T.), 2 Ladders, 1 Rescue, 1 District Chief|
|Box Alarm (Downtown)||1st Alarm Assignment||4 Engines (1 for R.I.T.), 2 Ladders, 1 Tower Ladder, 1 Rescue, 1 District Chief, 1 Division Chief|
|Box Alarm (High-Rise Fire Response)||1st Alarm Assignment||4 Engines (1 for R.I.T.), 2 Ladders, 1 Rescue (R1 or R2), 3 District Chiefs (1 for Operations, 1 for Evacuation, 1 for Accountability), 1 Division Chief, Safety District Chief, Air Supply Unit, Field/Tac. Comm. Unit|
|Box Alarm (MBTA Station/Tunnel Fire Response)||1st Alarm Assignment||4 Engines (1 for R.I.T.), 2 Ladders, 1 Rescue, 1 District Chief, 1 Division Chief, Safety District Chief|
|Box Alarm (Waterfront/Ship Fire Response)||1st Alarm Assignment||4 Engines (1 for R.I.T.), 2 Ladders, 1 Rescue, 1 District Chief, Marine Unit (Fireboats)|
|Full Box Alarm/Confirmed Fire||1st Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||1 Ladder (R.I.T.), 1 Tower Ladder, 1 District Chief (R.I.T.), Safety District Chief, Fireground Rehab./Mass Casualty Unit|
|2nd Alarm||2nd Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||3 Engines, 1 Ladder, 2 District Chiefs (1 for Accountability), 1 Division Chief, Special Unit, Air Supply Unit, 1 Public Information Officer|
|3rd Alarm||3rd Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines, 1 Ladder, Field/Tac. Comm. Unit|
|4th Alarm||4th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines|
|5th Alarm||5th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines, 1 Ladder|
|6th Alarm||6th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines|
|7th Alarm||7th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines, 1 Ladder|
|8th Alarm||8th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines|
|9th Alarm||9th Alarm Assignment (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines (Total Apparatus on Scene: 21 Engine Companies, 7 Ladder Companies, 1 Tower ladder Company, 1 Heavy Rescue Company, 4 District Chiefs, Safety District Chief, 1 Division Chief, Special Unit, Fireground Rehab./Mass Casualty Unit, Air Supply Unit, Field/Tac. Comm. Unit, 1 Public Information Officer)|
Special Incident Response
|Alarm Type||Alarm Level||Assigned Units|
|Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA)||Special Incident||1 Engine, 1 Ladder|
|Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) with Rollover/Entrapment||Special Incident||1 Engine, 1 Ladder, 1 District Chief, 1 Resuce|
|Vehicle Fire||Special Incident||1 Engine, 1 Ladder|
|EMS Response||Special Incident||1 Engine, 1 Ladder, or 1 Rescue|
|Haz-Mat. Level 0||Special Incident||1 Engine, 1 Ladder|
|Haz-Mat. Level 1||Special Incident (*Upgrade*)||1 District Chief, Special Unit, 1 Haz-Mat. Inspector|
|Haz-Mat. Level 2||Special Incident (*Upgrade*)||1 Engine (Haz-Mat.), 1 Ladder (Haz-Mat.), Safety District Chief, Haz-Mat. Unit, Fireground Rehab./Mass Casualty Unit, Field/Comm. Tac. Unit, 1 Boston Police Department Environmental Safety Group Unit|
|Haz-Mat. Level 3||Special Incident (*Upgrade*)||2 Engines (Decon.), 1 Division Chief, 1 Public Information Officer, 1 Fire Investigation Unit, Photography Unit|
Radio call signs
Each division within the Boston Fire Department utilizes a series of alphabetical radio call signs to designate each unit within a certain division.
|C||Administrative Officers/Headquarters Staff|
|G||Emergency Planning and Preparedness Division|
|H||Special Operations Units|
|I||Information Technology Division|
|K||Fire Prevention/Investigation Division|
|M||Maintenance Section/Motor Pool|
|N||Field Services Unit|
|P||Boston Police Department Unit's|
|T||Special Operations Command|
|X||Emergency Medical Response Division|
Busiest Fire Companies
Below is a list of the top 5 busiest Engine and Ladder Companies in the BFD according to unit responses in 2011:
Top 5 Busiest Engine Companies
|1. Engine 21||3,585|
|2. Engine 37||3,445|
|3. Engine 33||3,245|
|4. Engine 7||2,943|
|5. Engine 14||2,852|
Top 5 Busiest Ladder Companies
|1. Ladder 26||3,681|
|2. Ladder 17||3,640|
|3. Ladder 16||3,555|
|4. Ladder 23||2,832|
|5. Ladder 7||2,601|
Top 5 Fire Districts for total number of incidents within each District:
|1. District 4||12,463|
|2. District 7||9,964|
|3. District 9||9,127|
|4. District 3||8,284|
|5. District 8||8,247|
Top 5 Busiest Firehouses for total number of responses per firehouse:
|1. Engine 37, Ladder 26||7,126|
|2. Engine 7, Ladder 17||6,583|
|3. Engine 33, Ladder 15||5,784|
|4. Engine 53, Ladder 16||5,773|
|5. Engine 24, Ladder 23||5,643|
Great Fire of 1760
The first "Great Fire" of Boston destroyed 349 buildings on March 20, 1760.
Federal Street Fire
A large fire occurred at 133-139 Federal Street on May 2, 1858. The building was constructed of granite and wood, and occupied by an axe manufacturer and a bindery. Two Boston Firefighters were killed as a result of the fire, when a wall collapsed onto the roof of a nearby building on which they were performing their duties. The deceased firefighters were the first two persons interred at the Fireman's Lot at Forest Hills Cemetery.
Great Fire of 1872
The second "Great Fire" of Boston began on November 9, 1872. The fire destroyed 776 buildings, killed 13 people, and caused $75,000,000 in property damage. The fire required mutual aid companies from as far away as New Haven, Connecticut and Manchester, New Hampshire.
Cocoanut Grove Fire
The Cocoanut Grove fire is the deadliest nightclub fire in US history. At 10:15 PM on November 28, 1942 the fire began when a short in the electrical wiring ignited gas leaking from a faulty refrigeration unit. The fire eventually claimed 492 lives, and injured hundreds more. It was the second deadliest single-building fire in the US. Only the Iroquois Theater fire in Chicago in 1903 killed more people (602).
Bellflower Street Conflagration
On May 22, 1964, the Bellflower Street Conflagration occurred and ultimately destroyed or damaged 35 multi-family dwellings. This conflagration would greatly tax the resources of the Boston Fire Department and the Greater Boston mutual-aid network before being brought under control. Although many firefighters and citizens were injured, no fatalities were recorded.
Trumbull Street Fire
On the night of October 1, 1964, an abandoned 4-story factory caught fire in the South End. The building collapsed, resulting in the death of 5 firefighters: Lieutenant John J. McCorkle (Engine 24), Lieutenant John J. Geswell (Ladder 26), Firefighter Robert J. Clougherty (Engine 3), Firefighter Francis L. Murphy (Engine 24) and Firefighter James B. Sheedy (Ladder 4); and a civilian photographer.
Paramount Hotel Fire
A large natural gas explosion occurred on January 28, 1966 at 17 Boylston Street. Fifty-seven people were injured, and eleven died as a result of the explosion and fire.
Vendome Hotel Fire
At 2:35 PM on Saturday, June 17, 1972, an alarm from Box 1571 was received at Boston Fire Alarm for the Hotel Vendome on Commonwealth Avenue at Dartmouth Street in the Back Bay. It took nearly three hours to stop the 4-alarm blaze. During overhauling operations the southeast section of the building unexpectedly collapsed killing 9 Boston firefighters: Lieutenant Thomas J. Carroll (Engine 32), Lieutenant John E. Hanbury (Ladder 13), Firefighter Richard B. Magee (Engine 33), Firefighter Joseph F. Boucher (Engine 22), Firefighter Paul J. Murphy (Engine 32), Firefighter John E. Jameson (Engine 22), Firefighter Charles E. Dolan (Ladder 13), Firefighter Joseph P. Saniuk (Ladder 13) and Firefighter Thomas W. Beckwith (Engine 32); and injuring 8 more.
This fire was the worst tragedy in the history of the Boston Fire Department and one of the most deadly fires in the history of U.S. firefighting.
East Boston gas surge
The East Boston gas surge took place on September 24, 1983.
West Roxbury Fire
On the evening of August 29, 2007, firefighters responded to a report of a fire in the Tai-Ho Chinese restaurant in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. It was reported that smoke was observed on arrival, and a second alarm was promptly transmitted out of concern for the adjoining businesses.
Shortly after crews entered and began their initial attack, a suspected partial roof collapse and explosion trapped several firefighters inside. Witnesses observed and reported that about that time, a large fireball exploded out from the front of the restaurant windows several feet into the street and air.
The RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) was activated to search for the trapped and missing firefighters. As many as a dozen firefighters were evacuated and transported to area hospitals with various injuries. Two firefighters, Firefighter Paul J. Cahill of Engine 30 and Firefighter Warren J. Payne of Ladder 25, succumbed to their injuries sustained as a result of the explosion and collapse.
Beacon Street Fire
On the afternoon of March 26, 2014, firefighters responded to a report of a fire in a Beacon Street Brownstone in Boston's Back Bay. It was reported that smoke was observed upon arrival. Shortly after crews entered the building, a May Day alarm was sounded as members of Engine 33 were trapped in the basement. The fire began in the basement and quickly climbed up the four-story building, the Boston Fire Department said on its Twitter page. Two firefighters, Lt. Edward Walsh of Engine Co. 33 and Michael Kennedy of Ladder Co. 15, were killed and 18 people were injured in this nine alarm fire. See also 2014 Boston Brownstone Fire.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fire stations in Boston.|
- Boston Fire Department Official Website
- Boston Fire Department Local 718 Union Website
- List of Boston Fire Boxes and Locations
- Boston Fire Historical Society
- "Boston Fire Department History". Retrieved 2007-04-22.
- "Boston Fire Department Overview". Retrieved 2007-04-22.
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- "Boston Fire Museum, History of BFD". Retrieved 2007-04-22.
- Francis Samuel Drake. Tea leaves: being a collection of letters and documents. Boston: A.O. Crane, 1884.
- History of the Boston Fire Department. Boston: Arthur W. Brayley, 1889.
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