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Fire services are an organized firefighting and fire prevention service and an occupation involving fighting fires.

Fire services involve fire prevention services, fire suppression services, and related services that may include structural and wilderness fire fighting, rescue services, hazardous materials operations, confined-space rescues, vehicle extrication, basic life support, fire investigation, and fire cause and origin determination.

Firefighters also educate the public on fire prevention, safety, and other issues. Many fire departments also provide various levels of emergency medical services, either as a separate division or as an integral part of the firefighter's duties.

Most fire departments are public sector organizations administered at the federal, state, regional, county, or municipal levels, but private fire service organizations also exist.

Traditionally, within industrial facilities that are at particular risk of fire, the company might establish a fire brigade that would be available to provide an immediate response and later supplement the fire suppression activities of responding public fire departments. However, private-sector, for-profit fire companies also protect communities that lack the tax base to subsidize a municipal fire department and may be contracted by industrial companies. Private firefighting companies may also be employed to fill gaps when public departments are spread too thin. The U.S. Forest Service often employs private fire organizations to assist in suppressing wildfires.

Public and private fire prevention organizations offer emergency response services to their local communities or subscribers, and the chief differences have to do with how they are funded. Public fire departments are primarily funded through taxes, while insurance companies, corporations, housing developments, or other commercial property owners may contract private fire departments.

While there may be differences from one part of the world to another, fire departments usually contain one or more fire stations within their jurisdiction. These stations are staffed by professionals, including professionals, volunteers, on-call, or conscripts. In most cases, volunteers receive the same basic firefighting training as professionals and are similarly equipped. Many fire departments employ a mix of professional and volunteer firefighters. They may also provide ambulance services staffed by volunteer or professional EMS personnel, who are usually dual-trained as firefighters.

In larger service areas, fire departments are often set up with multiple fire stations, fire engines, and other apparatus, which are strategically deployed throughout the region. Separate divisions within a large fire department might be referred to as brigades, firehouses, fire stations, engine companies, pumper companies, truck companies, ladder companies, squads, or fire companies, and these may have a separate organizational structure answerable to a central administration.

Specialized fire department services might include EMS operations, brush patrol, hazardous materials response, and rescue services.

There is no standardized system of rank within a fire department, but commonly used ranks include firefighter, driver, engineer, fire equipment operator, lieutenant, captain, and chief (battalion chief, district chief, division chief, assistant chief, deputy chief). Additional ranks might include sergeants, majors, and inspectors.

Fire services have been around for a long time. While the first evidence of firefighting equipment dates back to a portable water pump discovered in ancient Egypt's ruins, the first known organized fire service was in Rome under the rule of Augustus Caesar. Slaves were organized into a fire corps to keep watch for fires and crime. They were even given badges to identify them to guards tasked with killing runaway slaves. In AD 60, during the reign of Emperor Nero, building owners could pay for fire suppression services or otherwise not receive assistance.

Rome's invasion of Britain introduced the concept of fire brigades, and other parts of Europe soon followed. In North America, Benjamin Franklin is credited with creating the first volunteer fire department, which became the Union Fire Company.

Today, the types of duties performed by fire departments may vary considerably according to the geographical area, other available government services, and the size of the population and economy.

Topics related to fire services are the focus of this portion of our guide. While websites representing specific fire departments should be listed in the corresponding Local & Global category, those that include considerable information about firefighting and fire services in general may be found here, along with other, more general, websites covering fire service topics.



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