Operations, is the
largest division within the Fire Department, is responsible for handling all
emergencies within the City of Raleigh. They respond to fire, medical
emergencies, and rescue calls (including extrication, high-level rescue, water
rescue, structural collapse and confined-space rescue).

FY17 Numbers:

  • Staffing
    includes (1) Assistant Chief, (3) Division Chiefs, (3) Division Chief Aides, 15
    Battalion Chiefs, 117 Captains, 123 Lieutenants, 286 Firefighters, (1) Chief
    Aide and (1) Senior Staff Support Specialist
  • Responded
    to 42,117 calls
    (61.08 percent of these calls were medical-related) 
  • 57
    patients were revived from cardiac arrest and discharged from the hospital


The Operations Division
also operates and participates in a regional urban search and rescue team and
operates a regional hazardous materials response team. 

In addition to
emergency response, the Operations Division inspects and maintains more than
23,000 fire hydrants with the City of Raleigh once per year to ensure
operational readiness.  

Other non-emergency
response activities include conducting pre-incident surveys in the 15,000 plus 
business occupancies within Raleigh, and installing smoke detectors upon
request, providing public fire education events, and assisting all those who
live and work within the city to meet their needs.

Fire Department Ranks

New firefighters are hired as recruits. They must complete a recruit academy (approximately 27 weeks) to become probationary firefighters, and remain on probation for six months. Promotions to higher ranks are determined by testing scores and other evaluative criteria.

After three years, firefighters are eligible for promotion to the rank of first class rirefighter (or assistant driver). First class firefighters can serve as driver-operator, in the lieutenant’s absence.

After three years, first class firefighters are eligible for promotion to the rank of senior firefighter.

Each apparatus has a driver-operator, named a lieutenant. They can serve as company officer, in the captain’s absence.

Each apparatus is also assigned a captain, who is the supervisor (or company officer). Other captains are assigned to staff positions and work weekdays in the Office of the Fire Marshal, the Services Division, and the Training Division.

The battalion chief supervises the captains at the fire stations. The city is divided into four geographic districts, called battalions. There are four battalion chiefs per platoon. They work 24-hour shifts. One battalion chief is also assigned to the Training Division and works weekdays.

The division chief (or platoon commander) supervises the four battalion chiefs, and oversees all operations, personnel, and stations on that platoon. There are five division chiefs, one for each platoon, that work 24-hour shifts. One division chief at Service and Training, that work Monday through Friday.

The assistant chief of operations supervises the division chief. Three other assistant chiefs supervise uniformed and civilian positions in the Office of the Fire Marshal, the Services Division, and the Training Division.

Each is appointed from within the fire department by the fire chief. The current assistant chiefs are:

The fire chief, who is currently John McGrath, supervises the four assistant chiefs plus an administrative staff. He is appointed by the city manager and approved by the Raleigh City Council. This position does not have to be filled from within the ranks of the fire department.

Fires and Emergencies

The Raleigh Fire Department responds to fires and fire alarms in all structures within the city limits and provides assistance to neighboring departments under North Carolina Mutual Aid Agreements. In addition to fire suppression, the Raleigh Fire Department is a first responder in medical emergencies.

Fire units begin patient assessment and stabilization, usually before the arrival of the ambulance. All firefighters are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). Medical calls comprise approximately 70 percent of the Raleigh Fire Department’s call volume. Ambulance service and transport is provided by separate EMS agencies. The Raleigh Fire Department and Wake County EMS share a medical director, Dr. Brent Myers.    

Other frequent types of emergency calls include motor vehicle accidents, vehicle accidents require extrication of a patient using rescue tools (or “jaws of life”), technical rescues, grass, brush, or woods fires, indoor and outdoor natural gas leaks, carbon monoxide emergencies, spills or leaks of substances that can cause health or environmental damage, children locked in vehicles, and general service calls.

The Raleigh Fire Department also operates a fire investigation unit. They are based at Station 1. A fire investigator is dispatched on all working structure fires. They are responsible for determining the cause and origin of all fires whether suspicious or not.

How Calls Are Received

Emergency calls are received and dispatched by the Raleigh/Wake County Emergency Communications Center.  Also known as the “911 Center”, they provide communication support to fire, EMS, and law enforcement agencies in Raleigh and Wake County. The center serves an area of approximately 860 square miles in Wake County.

Fire units are notified of emergencies by two-way radio. Each unit has a different radio tone, which activates a buzzer and overhead lights at the fire station. The tones are followed by an automated voice dispatcher that states the type of emergency, the street address, the responding units, and the radio channel. This information is also received at the fire station on both printer and an alphanumeric pager. A number of fire units also have mobile data terminals that display emergency call information from within the fire apparatus.    

Fire units responding to emergency calls travel with flashing lights and sirens. When responding to emergencies, fire units can proceed through red lights and stop signs as long as they stop first and see their way clear. It is important for all motor vehicles to pull to the right when an emergency vehicle is approaching from behind them with flashing lights and siren.

How Fires Are Fought

When the fire department arrives at a building fire, they have descending set of priorities: life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation:

  • Life Safety - ensuring that all occupants are safely removed from the building, through both evacuation and rescue.  Firefighters conduct primary and secondary searches inside the building and check all areas;
  • Stabilization - involves controlling and extinguishing the fire. This also involves protecting exposures, which refers to nearby buildings or other structures in danger of also catching fire; and,
  • Property conservation - involves actions to reduce or minimize the damage caused by fire, water, and smoke.

Fires within one or two rooms inside a building are typically fought as an interior or offensive attack. Firefighters take their hoses into the structure, and extinguish the flames inside the rooms.

Larger fires, such as involving an entire attic space or the upper-story of a building, are typically fought as exterior attack, this is also called defensive operations. Exterior attacks include hand hose streams, larger portable ground-based nozzles, and water streams from aerial devices.

Ventilation is an equally important tasks where firefighters use natural openings (doors or windows) or create openings (roof holes) to help remove smoke and heat from inside a structure. By doing so this helps firefighters search for occupants, and easily locate the seat of the fire.

The incident commander, also called command, supervises operations at a fire. Each company has a specific role, including fire attack, search and rescue, ventilation, rapid intervention team (one company ready to rescue any firefighters who become trapped), and safety (assessing hazards at the fire, such as downed power lines).

Water is carried by each engine company, with 500 gallons on each unit. While that amount is sufficient for most one- or two-room fires, the engine also connects to the nearest fire hydrant. This is called catching a hydrant. By connecting to a hydrant, the engine has an unlimited supply of water. Greater quantities of water are needed for larger fires. Additional engines may connect to the same hydrant  to boost pressure.