Seattle Fire Department uses many of the same words and phrases that are used by fire departments in other parts of the country. Sometimes in Seattle, however, those words and phrases sometimes have their own unique meanings.

Basic Unit Terminology

Engine – Three or four man crew with engine and 500 to 1000 gallons of water on the engine, with Advanced Life Support capabilities

Tanker – Tanker: water tender apparatus with at least (2) persons on board, carrying at least 1000 gallons of water. Some engines also qualify as tankers.

Grass Fighter – An off-road capable vehicle, usually a 4×4 pickup, that carries a small amount of water and hose line, used for fighting non-structural fires in areas where a conventional engine cannot fit.

Ladder - Three or Four man crew with ladder truck. 85-95 foot reaches

Tractor/Tiller Ladder - Three or Four man crew with 100 foot ladder

Rescue – Three or four man crew with special tools.

Medic – Two man crew respond to and transport medical emergencies

Squad – Two man manpower unit that responds to EMS calls, or a 2 man BLS ambulance

SO2 - Safety Officer, Captain rank, that responds to all working fires, Auto entrapment, and when needed

EMS Officer - EMS supervisor, Lieutenant or Captain, in-charge of EMS units

Battalion Chief - Battalion supervisor

ES2 – Deputy Chief, in-charge officer for all units working that day.


Fire Alarm: (Commercial, Residential, or High Rise) 2 Engines, Ladder, Chief

Fire Alarm-Waterflow alarm: (Sprinkler system running) 3 Engines, 2 Ladders, Rescue, Medic, and Chief.

Fire Alarm, Storm- Reduced response (typically one engine) to repeated false alarms or during periods of inclement weather or extremely high run volume.

Report of a Fire: (Any type structure, Initial alarm) 3 Engines, 2 Ladders, Rescue, Medic, and Chief.

2nd Alarm Fire (used when 1st alarm companies are unable to hold fire to initial area or used when 1st alarm manpower/equipment would not be enough to contain the fire) – 3 Engines, 2 Ladders, Rescue, Battalion Chief

Working Fire Assignment: 1 Engine, 1 Ladder, 1 Medic, 1 EMS Supervisor, 1 Battalion Chief, SO2

Gas Leak: (Propane, or natural) 3 Engines, 2 Ladders, Rescue, Medic, and Battalion Chief.

Haz-Mat runs: 3 Engines, 2 Ladders, Rescue, Medic, and Battalion Chief + Station 4 (Haz-mat4, with Engine, medic and Rescue from station)

Bomb Runs: Bomb Squad plus other units

Trash Fires, Grass Fires, Dumpster Fires: (Unless they are close to structure) 1 Engine

EMS Assignments

A Working Extrication response is dispatched whenever a report is received of someone being trapped inside a car involved in a motor vehicle accident. In other instances, the Medic or fire officer on the scene will request the Working Extrication response. Working Extrication assignments will add a 2nd rescue and the department’s Safety Officers (some instances a chief will be assigned.)

Auto Accidents (Freeway) Engine, Medic, EMS officer, Rescue

Auto Accident (Surface roads) Engine, Medic, and Rescue

Basic Life Support EMS runs(BLS) Medic

Advanced Life Support EMS runs(ALS) 1 Medic and 1 Engine

Water Response/Rescue: (Lake,River, or Pond) 3 Engines w/boats 2 Rescues, Ladder, 2 EMS Officers, CFD Dive team, two Medics, Battalion Chief

EMS Violent runs: (Stabbing, Shootings) 2 medic units and an EMS officer