fire Department

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fire Department
Fire inside an abandoned convent in Massueville, Quebec, Canada.jpg
Fire brigade in action
international emergency number
Flag of Europe.svg Euro emergency call 112
national emergency numbers
for the fire brigade
BelgiumBelgium Belgium 112 or 100
BrazilBrazil Brazil 193
ChileChile Chile 132
GermanyGermany Germany 112
FranceFrance France 18th
GreeceGreece Greece 199
ItalyItaly Italy 115
ItalyItaly BZ & TN 112
LiechtensteinLiechtenstein Liechtenstein 118
LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 112
AustriaAustria Austria 122
PolandPoland Poland 112 or 998
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 118
SlovakiaSlovakia Slovakia 150
SpainSpain Spain 085 or 080
Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 150
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 999
United StatesUnited States United States 911
This table is only an overview of some countries.
More can be found in the article Emergency Call .

The fire department is an organization with the task at fires , accidents , floods and similar events help to afford d. H. Rescuing, extinguishing, recovering and protecting people, animals and property, with the rescue of people being the top priority.

Since the number of fires has fallen sharply in the last few decades, the fire service is increasingly taking on tasks that go beyond traditional fire fighting. The type of newly assumed tasks and the structures of the fire brigades vary greatly from region to region. The prevention of environmental damage can also trigger a fire brigade.


Usually every state has a single emergency number with which the fire brigade can be contacted by telephone. In addition, in 1991 the European Union decided on the common European emergency number 112 , a uniform emergency number for the rescue service and fire brigade, which was generally accepted within the framework of the countries that then comprised the EU. In the meantime, this emergency number has also been introduced in the new member states. Since December 2008, the fire brigade has been available in every EU member state at 112. If other countries outside the EU, such as Switzerland and Norway, have also joined the Euro emergency number, their old emergency number still applies in most countries, and only a few have set up this emergency number exclusively.

Which organization or authority receives the Euro emergency call is regulated by country. The extent to which the European emergency number has already replaced the old emergency number or whether it is primarily available for foreign-language notifications differs from country to country.

Organizational forms

A fire brigade can:

Depending on the population structure and density, the structures of the fire service organizations are also different. While z. For example, in Germany, Austria or South Tyrol the volunteer fire brigades cover the largest part of fire protection in terms of area, other countries rely on base fire brigades with full-time staff . In many municipalities, Switzerland has general fire service obligations for men and women. In most countries there is also fire and / or disaster protection based on existing military structures. At the same time, there are countries in which several of these structures are mixed or exist in parallel.


Steam syringe from 1910
Syringe house in Geyerbad near Obernheim (2019)World icon

Organized fire fighting units already existed in ancient Egypt .

In the Roman Empire , cities with millions of inhabitants emerged like Rome . The houses were mostly multi-story and stood very close to one another, and the alleys were also very narrow. In many cases, wooden extensions and porches were built on the houses. Fires destroyed entire districts of Rome several times. In the year 21 BC A first fire brigade with 600 slaves was founded.

As early as the Middle Ages , the communities were obliged to set up fire protection . Tower keepers and night watchmen were initially responsible for fire reports (shouting: “ Feurio! ”). First, the guilds and guilds were obliged to intervene in an emergency. Since many buildings were half-timbered buildings made of wood and were often erected within the city walls in a confined space, there were very often large fires in which entire city districts burned down. It was also the first time fire servants anchored in the fire-fighting regulations, so that by the first professional fire can be spoken, such as the fire brigade Vienna , is taken as its founding year 1686th

In the pre-industrial era, fire-fighting equipment was limited to simple aids such as buckets, ladders, and tear hooks. In the 17th century the hose was invented, which was first made from sewn leather ; later the leather was riveted. Until the beginning of the 20th century, hand pumps, so-called fire engines, were still used, which were pulled to the scene by horses or the fire fighting team.

In the USA , the first privately organized professional fire departments were founded in the middle of the 19th century . In some cases, only houses with the badge of such a company were deleted.

In the middle of the 19th century, the development of a comprehensive fire extinguishing system on a voluntary basis began in German-speaking countries and throughout the entire Danube region. Several fire departments claim the title of the oldest volunteer fire department in Germany. Apart from a few interruptions, such as the fire police during the time of National Socialism , the system of the voluntary fire brigade has since provided the main part of ensuring defensive fire protection in Germany in addition to the compulsory, professional and works fire brigade.

With the onset of industrialization at the beginning of the 20th century, the technical availability of fire departments increased significantly. With combustion engine-powered vehicles, it was now possible to equip all fire brigades with powerful vehicles and fire pumps .


Rescuing the injured during an emergency exercise
Fire hydrant in Switzerland
Road marking in Berlin
In some countries, the rescue service is one of the tasks of the fire brigade. Here is an ambulance from the Frankfurt am Main fire department

The duties of the fire brigade are regulated in the laws of each state. The summary of the tasks with the keywords "Rescue, Extinguish, Rescue, Protect" is widespread internationally.

Since in the German language the term Bergen is defined in the Geneva Agreement for the protection of the victims of war in such a way that mountain also means the liberation of people and animals from a dangerous situation in the sense of “rescue”, the two terms rescue are often used and mountains are used equally. For the fire brigade area in German-speaking countries, however, it applies that rescue only relates to living beings. This is regulated, for example, in the two standards DIN 14011 (for Germany) and ÖNORM F 1000 (for Austria), in which the terms in the fire service are defined.


The rescue is the prevention of a danger to life of people with immediate measures ( first aid ), the preservation or restoration of breathing , circulation serve or cardiac activity. Rescuing people and animals from a predicament by means of technical rescue measures is also part of the rescue process. Fields of activity for this are z. B. Fire, flood or traffic accidents. Historically, the rescue service often evolved from the fire brigades, for example in Austria-Hungary . While on the one hand he broke away from the fire brigade in many countries and was absorbed in other organizations or developed independently, he remained z. B. in parts of Germany and in parts of the USA within the fire service. In North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin , the rescue service is completely in the hands of the fire brigade. Sometimes, due to the proximity of the fire brigade on land, first responders emerged, which also represent an essential part of the rescue chain.


The deletion is the oldest task of the fire department. With this so-called defensive fire protection , a wide variety of fires are fought with the help of special equipment .

However, over time, the number of firefighters around the world has decreased. Due to the increasing variety of tasks of the fire brigade, the technical assistance is increasing significantly - the fire brigade is developing into an assistance organization.


The fire brigade can take over the recovery of property, dead people or animals.


The Cessna 206 H Stationair of the Lower Saxony fire brigade flight
service for forest fire observation and coordination from the air

Preventive measures (protection) essentially contain elements of preventive fire protection . These are used to avoid incipient fires such. B. by fire safety guards at public events or consistent fire protection education in the population to draw attention to dangers and to show correct behavior in emergency situations .

In industrialized nations in particular, more and more attention is paid to industrial fire protection , be it through our own company or public fire brigades.

In addition, the fire brigade is often consulted within the scope of official building permit procedures for larger construction projects and asked for their opinion. The fire brigade also works in various specialist areas in the creation of standards .

In addition, the fire brigade actively pursues environmental protection , for example by containing oil spills , binding traces of oil or vehicle fluids on roads to avert danger , absorbing vehicle fluids as administrative assistance and protection against chemical, biological and nuclear dangers.


In some countries, the fire brigade also has special tasks to deal with as part of its basic tasks. These areas of responsibility are to be assessed differently insofar as whether the special units are to act for the population or their victims as a whole or only to support or protect their own team.

Such special units are, for example, the following units:

Height rescue

Rescue from highs and lows is part of the fire brigade's field of activity.

The work is always done in the rope and is characterized by u. a. through the multiple (redundant) design of safety and rescue systems.

Typical missions for height rescuers are heart attacks or strokes by crane operators, suicide attempts, rescue missions on high-rise buildings or climbing accidents , people in shafts or silos and people who have fallen to great depths, as well as personal accidents when working with antennas on towers and other elevated locations.


Decontamination, or decon for short, is the removal of dangerous impurities (contamination) from people, objects or unprotected surfaces. This area of ​​responsibility is part of NBC protection . The hazards can be radioactive , biological or chemical in nature. The firefighters wear a chemical protective suit that protects them from external influences. Special training is required for this and, due to the high level of stress, a person may only work for about 20 to a maximum of 25 minutes. After operations with chemical protective suits in the area of ​​contamination, the suits and their wearers must be specially decontaminated.


Training and service

The training to become a firefighter depends on the structure of the fire brigade in the respective country. Depending on these circumstances, training takes place centrally in fire brigade schools or more decentrally in the individual fire brigades on site or at intermediate levels such as district or district. In some countries, such as the Czech Republic, there are opportunities to study at universities or technical colleges for higher functions in the fire service .

There are also differences in the training paths for professional fire departments and volunteer fire departments. Professional fire departments very often carry out their training during the usual standby time, supplemented by individual subject-specific courses. In the case of voluntary fire brigades, however, it must be taken into account that the fire brigade members pursue a civilian profession and that the training courses are therefore completed in the off-peak times or in other leisure blocks if possible.

Another criterion of the types of training today is the various certifications and quality management systems. This is necessary in order to give the individual fire brigade members the same training for the same activities or functions.

In times of tight financial resources, it is also necessary to organize the training as effectively as possible. Particularly in the area of ​​volunteer fire brigades, attempts are being made to move the broadly diversified training courses, as represented by the basic training courses, to the locations of the respective fire brigade, since in this area the trainers also work on a voluntary basis and therefore cost-effectively. It is different with special training, where you have to fall back on special facilities that are usually only found in central training facilities such as fire schools or base fire departments.

Youth work

Youth fire brigade during an exercise

In many countries there are fire brigade departments that are specifically responsible for recruiting young people .

In some countries - for example Germany - in view of the declining number of volunteer fire brigades, attempts are being made to win new members with advertising and image campaigns. Through youth work in the youth fire brigades , an attempt is made to inspire children and young people to work in the fire brigade so that they can be used in the fire brigade service if they are of the appropriate age and qualifications. Children's fire departments are offered in some communities.


Youth fire brigade for Germany or fire brigade youth for Austria.

Fire fighting

X. International Fire Brigade Sports Competition of the CTIF 1993 in Berlin, fire fighting discipline FF - Winner: Team FF Beselich-Obertiefenbach

Fire fighting is a sport that has arisen from many areas of fire fighting work.

Physical fitness and sport are still one of the most important foundations for ensuring firefighters are ready for action. With the largely voluntary work in the volunteer fire brigades, it is essential to be able to cope with psychological and physical stress, which all too often are at the limit of what each individual is capable of.

The consolidation of health, the development of the necessary qualities and the perfecting of the skills of the comrades are most effectively ensured by combining the operational activities with special sporting exercises and the most varied of sports on the basis of all-round sporting training. In addition to endurance and speed, the most suitable sport for the constant improvement of physical fitness is applied fire fighting sport.

Patron saint

St. Florian on fire station

In many countries, St. Florian is the patron saint of fire brigades, who is called upon in the event of drought, risk of fire and sterility of the fields. The cause is the attribute water bucket (attribute of the martyrdom of the Roman soldier, of drowning in the Enns ), with which the saint with helmet is always depicted. That is why fire fighters in German-speaking countries are also referred to as Floriani or Florian youths . In some countries such as Germany or Austria, some fire brigade facilities or vehicles also have the tactical name, which then extends to the radio call name.

In rural regions, on the day of the saint's remembrance , on May 4th, a Florian or Floriani mass is held, in which the local fire fighters take part in dress uniforms . The fire brigade is presented to the public through events such as the open day .

In the more northern German-speaking areas and Switzerland, St. Agatha is the patron saint of fire departments.

Since St. Barbara , as one of the 14 emergency helpers , is a helper against the risk of fire, she is also considered the patron saint of fire fighters, among other professions. She is z. B. honored in the blasting service of the Austrian fire brigade.


Extinguishing train in front of a fire station in Germany
Fireboat on the Rhine in Basel

Main article: Fire fighting equipment

In order to be able to fulfill the tasks assigned to it, the fire brigade has a large number of technical devices in modern times . In addition to the fire engines, this also includes their loading and the personal equipment of each fire service member who is housed in a fire station . This equipment is used to protect against the dangers of the fire service during training, practice and use. In most countries this consists of a fire brigade suit, a hard hat, gloves and safety shoes.

In addition, communication systems such as BOS radio systems , analog or digital, as well as technology for alerting the fire brigade members are also used in the fire brigade .

In many countries, rescue dogs are also part of the fire service. They are mainly used in the disaster relief service after earthquakes or other disasters , but also in the search for missing people.

In many countries the fire brigade is also responsible for the rescue service and thus has the appropriate vehicles and equipment available, as in Germany, where this task is mainly performed by professional fire brigades .


Due to the lack of comprehensive protection and the costs of professional fire brigades, attempts are being made to establish such systems in countries without voluntary systems. In Greece, for example, there are summer camps organized by ESEPA with volunteers from other countries who help fight forest fires .

But even in areas with a high proportion of volunteer fire brigades, the financial share that is raised by the public in the form of donations or parties, etc., is increasingly higher in relation to the expenditures made by the public sector.

Firefighters in Europe

The following statistics show the number and proportions of active adult fire brigade members in several major European countries.

country Residents Total number of
fire brigade members
Ratio of
fire brigade to

Fire service volunteers
Professional fire service members Part-time firefighters
DenmarkDenmark Denmark 5,756,000 7,600 0.13% 1,350 1,750 4,500
GermanyGermany Germany 82,218,000 1,027,996 1.25% 996.688 31,308 0
FinlandFinland Finland 5,474,000 19,267 0.35% 11,615 3,846 3,806
FranceFrance France 66,628,000 234,446 0.35% 193,800 40,646 0
GreeceGreece Greece 10,788,000 15,660 0.15% 1,507 12,441 1,712
ItalyItaly Italy 61,000,000 48,930 0.08% 20,060 28,870 0
AustriaAustria Austria 8,773,000 258,433 2.95% 255.865 2,568 0
PolandPoland Poland 38,413,000 256,480 0.67% 226.240 30,240 0
Czech RepublicCzech Republic Czech Republic 10,610,000 79,950 0.75% 67,383 12,567 0
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 61,370,000 60,500 0.10% 1,400 40,100 19,000

Status: 2017

Acceptance in the population

Due to the high penetration of all sections of the population with fire brigade members, these are always in top positions compared to other professional groups in the trust that the population places in them. Every year, Reader's Digest carries out one of the largest studies in Europe: the Readers Digest European Trusted Brands . In March 2019, 7,037 readers in Germany voted firefighters as the profession with the highest trust value of 93 percent.

films and series

See also

Portal: Fire Brigade  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of fire brigade


Web links

Wiktionary: Feuerwehr  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Commons : Firefighters  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. European Commission - Information Society : The European emergency number - 112.
  2. Federal Ministry of the Interior - Euronotruf
  3. Jacob Grimm : About the cries of fire . In: Smaller Fonts . tape 5 . Berlin 1871, p. 393-397 ( ).
  4. ^ Franz-Josef Sehr : The fire extinguishing system in Obertiefenbach from earlier times . In: Yearbook for the Limburg-Weilburg district 1994 . The district committee of the Limburg-Weilburg district, Limburg-Weilburg 1993, p. 151-153 .
  5. ↑ In detail: Blazek, Matthias: Under the swastika: The German fire brigades 1933–1945. ibidem, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-89821-997-6 , p. 9 f.
  6. Note in ÖNORM F 1000
  7. Article in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  8. Koloszár: BFKDO Wiener Neustadt - blasting service. In: Retrieved December 15, 2016 .
  9. World Fire Statistics Issue No. 24-2019. (PDF) Table 11: Personnel and equipment of state fire brigades in 2001–2017. World Fire Brigade Association CTIF, April 18, 2019, accessed on April 4, 2020 .
  10. Firefighters in the most diverse regions of the world enjoy the highest levels of trust among people. In: GfK Compact, March 2016, accessed on May 21, 2020 .
  11. Firefighters enjoy the utmost confidence. Reader's Digest Germany, Verlag Das Beste GmbH, Stuttgart, May 2019, accessed on March 6, 2020 .