San Francisco Fire Department

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San Francisco Fire Department
SFFD PatchLogo.jpg
Operational Area
Country  United States
State  California
City San Francisco
Agency Overview[1]
Established 1866
Annual calls 271,914 (2013)
Employees 1,449 (2012)
Annual budget $326,072,813 (2012)
Fire chief Joanne Hayes-White
IAFF 798
Facilities & Equipment
Divisions 2
Battalions 9
Stations 48 (Including 3 ARFF stations, 1 fireboat station, 1 EMS base)
Engines 46 (Including 3 ARFF engines)
Trucks 21 (Including 1 ARFF truck)
Rescues 2
Wildland engines 5
Fireboats 2
Ambulances 17 ALS
Tenders 1
Airport crash 4

The San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) provides fire and emergency medical services to the City and County of San Francisco, California.[2][3] The San Francisco Fire Department, along with the San Francisco Police Department and San Francisco Sheriff's Department, serves an estimated population of 1.4 million people, which includes the approximately 850,000 citizens residing in the 47.5 square miles (123 km2) of San Francisco (including Treasure Island, Yerba Buena Island, San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the San Francisco International Airport, and the Presidio of San Francisco/Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

In 2012, the San Francisco Fire Department responded to 120,536 emergency calls, with 28,281 being fire-related and 92,255 being emergency medical-related.[4]


Volunteer companies were first formed in the city in 1850, and a paid staff established in 1866. In 1906, the department was considered on a par with those of the larger cities on the East Coast, but found itself reduced to fighting the fire of 1906 in the quake aftermath with axes and shovels, as most of the city's water mains were broken and cisterns drained. Fire Chief Dennis T. Sullivan suffered mortal wounds in his home by a falling chimney early in the disaster and subsequently died in the hospital.


The San Francisco Fire Department is divided into two sections of operation: Operations and Administration. Each section is commanded by a deputy chief, who reports directly to the chief of department.


All emergency response operations are supervised by the deputy chief of operations, who is second in command after the chief of department. Department operations include fire suppression, tactical rescue, emergency medical care, fire prevention, arson investigation, response to natural disasters, mass-casualty, and hazardous materials incidents, and fire and EMS dispatch supervision. The deputy chief is responsible for supervising all field operations, division chiefs, battalion chiefs, company officers, emergency response personnel, and assistant deputy chiefs.[5][6]


All department activities related to personnel, training, equipment and resources are supervised by the deputy chief of administration, who is third in command after the chief of department. The deputy chief is responsible for supervision of the assistant deputy chiefs assigned to manage the Division of Support Services and the Division of Training as well as the personnel charged with management of human resources and finance. The Office of the Department Physician, the department's safety officer and the Bureau of Investigative Services are also under direct supervision of the deputy chief of administration.[7]


Rank level Rank
H1 EMS Fire Rescue Paramedic (Ambulance) * SF Dept of Public Health to SFFD integration transfer rank
H2 Firefighter/EMT
H3 - Level 1 EMS EMT (Ambulance)
H3 - Level 2 EMS Paramedic (Ambulance)
H3 - Level 3 Firefighter/Paramedic
H4 Fire Inspector
H6 Fire Investigator
H10 Incident Support Specialist (Chief's Aide/Driver)
H16 Technical Training Specialist
H18 Community Services Coordinator
H20 Fire Lieutenant
H22 Fire Lieutenant, Bureau of Fire Prevention
H24 Fire Lieutenant, Bureau of Fire Investigation
H28 Fire Lieutenant, Division of Training
H29 Special Services Officer
H30 Fire Captain
H32 Fire Captain, Division of Fire Prevention and Investigation
H33 EMS Rescue Captain/Paramedic
H39 Fire Captain, Division of Training
H40 Fire Battalion Chief
H43 EMS Section Chief
H50 Assistant (Division) Fire Chief
H51 Deputy Assistant Fire Chief
H110 Fireboat Engineer
H120 Fireboat Pilot
CD1 Fire Chief of Department
CD2 Deputy Fire Chief, Operations
CD3 Deputy Fire Chief, Administration


Fireboat Guardian stands on alert status near the Bay Bridge.
SFFD Truck 3 operating at a fire in the Tenderloin.
The former Fire Station # 1, located on Howard Street
SFFD Engine 16, quartered in the Marina District
Two SFFD truck companies at the scene of a 4th-alarm fire on 41st Ave. in the Sunset District

Personnel profile (2014)[edit]

  • 1,392 uniformed members
  • 57 civilian members

Apparatus profile (2014)[edit]

Fire companies[edit]

  • 46 engine companies (E1, E2, E3, E4, E5, E6, E7, E8, E9, E10, E11, E12, E13, E14, E15, E16, E17, E18, E19, E20, E21, E22, E23, E24, E25, E26, E28, E29, E31, E32, E33*, E34, E35, E36, E37, E38, E39, E40, E41, E42, E43, E44, E46*, E48, E51, E56*) *=Airport Rescue
  • 22 truck companies (T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9, T10, T11, T12, T13, T14, T15, T16, T17, T18, T19, T41*, T44*, T48) *=Airport Rescue
  • 2 rescue squad companies (RS1 & RS2)

Medic units[edit]

  • 16 ALS medic ambulances (M53, M54, M55, M58, M66, M67, M68, M72, M75, M77, M78, M79, M81, M82, M83, M84, M85, M86, M87, M88, M89, M92, M93, M94) (Variable EMS personnel staffing based on time of day by the personnel at Station 49.)
  • 1 ALS rescue ambulance (RA48) (cross-staffed by Engine 48 FF/Paramedic & FF/EMT-A)
  • 5 paramedic rescue captain's units (RC1, RC2, RC3, RC4, Airport)

Command units and chiefs[edit]

  • 2 division chief's units (D2 & D3)
  • 9 battalion chief's units (B1, B2, B3, B4, B6, B7, B8, B9, B10)

Special and support units[edit]

  • 2 fireboats (FB1 Phoenix & FB2 Guardian)
  • 3 rescue boats (RB9, RB16, RB35)
  • 3 light rescue units (LR5, LR7, LR21)
  • 3 mobile urban search and rescue trailers (USAR 5, USAR 7, USAR 21)
  • 2 mobile air units (MA1 & MA2)
  • 2 mobile air support trailers (MAST1 & MAST2)
  • 1 hazardous materials(haz-mat.) unit (HM1) (cross-staffed by Engine 36)
  • 2 decontamination(decon.) units (Decon. 1 & Decon. 2)
  • 1 mobile command unit (MC1)
  • 1 CO2(purple K) unit
  • 2 coastal rescue units (CR1-Cliff Rescue Unit (cross-staffed by Engine 34) & CR2-Swift Water/Surf Rescue Unit (cross-staffed by Engine 18)
  • 1 C.B.R.N.E. (U.S.A.R.) unit (CBRNE1)
  • 2 multi-casualty units (MCU1 & MCU2)
  • 1 pollution control (sand/absorbent) unit (PC1) (cross-staffed by Engine 20)
  • 4 wildland/brush mini-pumpers (MP25, MP32, MP43, MP44)
  • 1 hose tender (HT48)
  • 5 five inch hose portable hydrant tenders (FHT9, FHT17, FHT22, FHT38, FHT48)
  • 1 high-pressure battery unit (HPBU1)
  • 1 fuel truck (FT)
  • 1 utility unit (UU1)
  • 1 maintenance tow truck (TU1)
  • 6 Jet Ski units (RWC1, RWC2, RWC3, RWC4, RWC5, RWC6)
  • 1 arson unit (4710)
  • 1 homeland security/port response support unit (HS1)

Airport units[edit]

  • 3 ARFF engines (E33, E46 & E56)
  • 2 ARFF trucks (T41, T44)
  • 1 ARFF captain's unit
  • 1 ARFF mini-pumper unit
  • 5 ARFF crash trucks (ARF7, ARF8, ARF9, ARF10, ARF11) *all are 8x8s
  • 2 ARFF crash trucks (Spare: ARF37=4x4, and ARF90=6x6


Structure fire response guidelines[edit]

(Response guidelines are different for San Francisco International Airport apparatus and fire on Alcatraz Island)

Alarm type Alarm level Units assigned
Street fire alarm pull box Unit dispatch assignment 1 engine, 1 truck
Activated commercial/residential fire alarm Building alarm assignment 1 engine, 1 truck, 1 battalion chief
Box alarm 1st alarm assignment 3 engines, 2 trucks, 1 rescue squad, 2 battalion chiefs, 1 division chief*, 1 medic unit
Confirmed working fire/full box alarm 1st alarm assignment (upgrade) 1 engine (RIC)**, 1 rescue captain, 1 engine (incident support crew assigned at option of division chief or higher-ranking officer)
2nd alarm*** 2nd alarm assignment (upgrade) 4 engines, 1 truck, 1 battalion chief, 1 medic unit, 1 rescue captain, 1 mobile air unit
3rd alarm 3rd alarm assignment (upgrade) 4 engines, 2 trucks, 1 battalion chief, 1 medic unit, fire reserve activated, chief of department and deputy chiefs notified
4th alarm 4th alarm assignment (upgrade) 4 engines, 1 truck, 1 battalion chief, 1 medic unit
5th alarm 5th alarm assignment (upgrade) 4 engines, 1 truck, 1 battalion chief, 1 medic unit
* Depending on CAD Geobox location, a division chief might not be assigned on a 1st alarm assignment but would be when a 2nd alarm is struck.
** RIC - rapid intervention crew
*** Any working fire in a high-rise (tower block/skyscraper) building or on Treasure Island or Yerba Buena Island brings an equivalent of a 2nd alarm assignment in addition to the 1st alarm.


Dress uniform[edit]

SFFD's Class "A" dress uniform for the rank and file is a double breasted navy blue coat with silver buttons, navy blue crowned black peaked cap, navy blue pants, black tie and a white shirt. The uniform for battalion chiefs and above is different in that the coat is black with gold buttons, the cap, pants and tie are black with white shirt.

Station uniform[edit]

The station uniform is a navy blue crowned black peaked cap, navy blue pants and shirt with white buttons for the rank and file. The SFO Airport Division station uniform is different in that a light blue shirt with unique shoulder patches is worn. EMS paramedic rescue captains wear white shirts with red shoulder patches and navy blue pants. EMS paramedics and EMS EMTs wear navy blue station uniform with red shoulder patches. EMS fire rescue paramedics wear white shirts with blue shoulder patches and navy blue pants. Battalion chiefs and above wear a black crowned peaked cap, black tie, black pants and a white shirt.

Bunker gear[edit]

SFFD bunker/turnout gear is black with reflective stripes for all city ranks except for the fire chief who wears white. Airport fire fighters wear tan. SFFD Fire Reserve gear is tan or yellow for coats and black for pants. Wildland turnout gear is yellow reflective. Yellow reflective traffic safety vests are worn during street/highway emergency incidents (except during firefighting or hazmat activities).


A late 19th-century fire fighters' speaking horn; also called a bugle.

The SFFD breast badge displays the American bald eagle perched on top a shield (the mythical bird phoenix[8] only appears on the Seal of San Francisco) with the city seal, rank and number affixed on the shield. Insignia is silver for the rank and file and gold for battalion chiefs and above.

SFFD fire officer collar rank insignias depict the traditional fire service speaking horns (also called bugles) on a similarly colored background disk. Which makes it difficult to identify rank at a distance and usually only persons familiar with the SFFD or other fire services are able to discern the ranks based on the insignia. Thus SFFD officer identification only by collar/cap insignia can be difficult for law enforcement and military personnel during multi-agency/mutual aid incidents.

Fire helmets[edit]

Most SFFD fire helmets are manufactured by Cairns MSA. Many SFFD firefighters wear old-style Cairns N5A New Yorker leather fire helmets, while others wear newer composite-style Cairns 1044 helmets.

The helmets are painted in specific ways to designate the wearer's fire company or unit. Firefighters assigned to engine/hosetender companies have helmets painted all-black. Truck company firefighters have their helmets painted black with alternating white and red sections on the dome. Rescue squad members have black helmets with alternating black and white sections on the dome. Arson investigators wear all-blue helmets. The helmets of the chief's aides are black with white domes. The fire chief's helmet is all-white. Fire Reserve helmets are black with yellow domes and black ribbing. The SFFD is one of the only fire departments which paints their helmets to designate certain companies. Because firefighters may be temporarily attached/detailed to a company or unit, the helmet color and shield front company number does not always reflect where that firefighter is working that day.

In popular culture[edit]

San Francisco fire station 12 fire truck with Grateful Dead sticker
  • The SFFD was the responding fire department to a major high-rise fire disaster in the 1974 film, The Towering Inferno. The film cast many actual firefighters from the department and used many actual SFFD fire trucks during the filming. Fire Station 38 was also shown in the filming. The exterior shots were done at the Bank of America Building, 555 California.
  • The SFFD was also used in the Dirty Harry film series, particularly Rescue Squad 2 in Dirty Harry.
  • When a veteran SFFD firefighter is killed and Adrian Monk is blinded in a mysterious attack at a firehouse in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing," Monk must rely on his other senses to solve the bizarre case. In the course of the episode, he finds that the killer came to the firehouse to steal a fireman's coat and even finds that the man who blinded him had just beforehand killed a woman a few blocks away and set fire to her house (that fire was the one the engine company had been responding to when the murder at the firehouse took place). The depicted fire station, Fire Station 53, is a fictitious station. The exterior of the station was represented by Fire Station 1 of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
  • In the Monk novel series by Lee Goldberg, Joe Cochran, Natalie Teeger's occasional lover, is an SFFD firefighter, making appearances in the novels Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, and Mr. Monk in Outer Space.
  • The SFFD was featured in two Emergency! television movies in 1978 and 1979, where L.A. County firefighter/paramedics Gage and DeSoto run calls with the firefighters of Rescue Squad 2.
  • The NBC Television show Trauma followed the fictional lives of SFFD paramedics, EMTs and flight medics.
  • The department is featured in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill. After San Francisco City Hall is set ablaze by the villainous Max Zorin in an attempt to kill Bond, the SFFD arrives on scene and assists Roger Moore's character in escaping the burning building and then ultimately "borrows" a SFFD ladder truck in order to outrun the police officers chasing him on the suspicion that his character set the blaze.
  • The CBS Television series "Rescue 9-1-1-" Episode #107 the 4th Segment featured The San Francisco Fire Department responding to an apartment fire and in one of the scenes, sparks shoot over a firetruck from a broken wire from a powerline and the Station # was Station #9 built in 1915.


  1. ^ "Annual Report". San Francisco Fire Derpartment. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  2. ^ San Francisco Fire Department : Home
  3. ^ San Francisco Fire Department : About Us
  4. ^
  5. ^ San Francisco Fire Department : Deputy Chief of Operations
  6. ^ San Francisco Fire Department : About SFFD Operations
  7. ^ San Francisco Fire Department : Deputy Chief of Administration
  8. ^ San Francisco Fire Department FY 2005–2006 Annual Report, Quote: "Those with an indomitable spirit, the spirit of San Francisco, who, like our symbol, the Phoenix, raised San Francisco from the ashes of the Great Fire and built it into the City we know today."

External links[edit]