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Houston Fire Department

HFD Units and Common Terms

Currently, the Houston Fire Department has (units per shift):


EngineEngine Companies- Staffed with 4 members who are cross trained as firefighters and EMTs. A Fire Engine functions as a BLS unit without transport capabilities. Some Engines are also staffed with paramedics.  When responding to a fire, the primary purpose of an engine is to locate and extinguish the fire.

32  LadderLadder Trucks  – Staffed with 4 members who are cross trained as firefighters and EMTs. A Ladder Truck functions as a BLS unit without transport capabilities. When responding to a fire, the primary purpose of a ladder is search and rescue and ventilation.
5 TowerTower Trucks - Staffed with 4 members who are cross trained as firefighters and EMTs. A Tower Truck functions as a BLS unit without transport capabilities. When responding to a fire, the primary purpose of a tower is the same as a ladder, but the tower has a bucket at the end of the ladder.
11 BoosterBooster Trucks  - The primary purpose of a Booster is to put out small fires (dumpster, trash) and/or respond to grass fires and/or used as directed by the district chief at a fire scene.
21 ChiefDistrict Chiefs - District Chiefs respond to all incidents within their district, be it fire or other incident / non-fire related (accidents, firefighter injuries, at citizen's request, etc.)
Safety OfficerSafety Officers – responsible for safe operations on the fireground and insures injuries are reported and documented.
2 Shift CommanderShift Commander Suburban  - Deputy Chief responsible for the North and South response areas and personnel.
56 AmbulanceAmbulances (BLS) - An ambulance staffed with 2 EMT's operating in the capacity of an Emergency Medical Technician providing prehospital care. (BLS) Transport unit

MedicMedic Units  (ALS)- An ambulance staffed with 2 Paramedics operating in the capacity of an advanced life support prehospital care provider.  Transport Unit

12 SquadSquad Unit - A Squad is an EMS unit that consists of two paramedics, usually in a suburban or other vehicle that responds to an incident to administer advanced medical care. If they are not needed to actually transport the patient, once a BLS unit has arrived, the BLS unit can take the patient to the hospital.
10  EMS Supervisors
hazmatHazmat Response Units - The primary purpose of a Hazmat unit is to define chemicals, what type of incident they are dealing with and stop the flow of the substance .  
Hazmat Foam Engine 
9 ARFF Crash Trucks - These units respond only to airport emergencies.
arff truckARFF Trucks - These units respond only to airport emergencies.
Arff medicalARFF Medical Service Units
ARFF Rapid Intervention Units
ARFF Triage Vehicle 
ARFF Triage Trailers
2 rescue trailerSpecial Operations Rescue Trailer 
1 Special Operations Rescue Triage Trailer
Special Operations Rescue Incident Vehicle 
3 rescue truckTechnical Rescue Trucks - The primary purpose of the Rescue unit is to excavate and rescue.
8 Evacuation Boats - Placed into service during times of high-water, primarily used when there are a large number of people trapped in high waters.
rescue boatRescue Boats - The primary function of the rescue boat is to be used to effect rescue in high water situations, removal of a victim and/or stranded individual.
4 Fast Water Rescue Craft - Jet Bikes arrived 2007.
4 cascade truckCascade Trucks - These units see that all air bottles are in their quadrant are kept full. They also respond to the request of district chiefs at working fires to fill air bottles.
1 rehab truckRehab Truck - This special piece of equipment  is designed to re-hydrate firefighters and can be called for use by captains and district chiefs to an incident.
1 Command VanCommand Van
big blow fanMobile Ventilation Unit – This special piece of equipment is used to disperse large volumes of smoke within a designated area.


What Do the Letters & Numbers Mean?


The numbers will usually indicate what fire station the unit is from.  An "5" before the station number indicates that the station has two of that type of unit.  For example, station 10 has two basic ambulance units, one "A - 10" and the other "A- 510". 


A- Ambulance (BLS)

MD-Medical Directors

ACR-Airport Coordinator

M-Medic (ALS)

AR-Airport Rescue

MS-Medical Safety Unit (airports)

AS-Ambulance Supervisor

OPS - Special Events Unit


RB - Rescue Boat


RH-Rehab Unit

BL-Mobile Fan

RUT-Rescue Utility


SC-Shift Commander

CV-Command Van

SEE-Engine (special event)

D-District Chief

SEFC-Fire Cart (special event)

EB-Evacuation Boat

SEMBT-Med. Bike Team (special event)


SEMC-Medical Cart (special event)

EMSD-EMS Medical District Chief

SEM-Medic (special event)

FB-Fire Boat

SERC-Rescue Cart (special event)

F-Foam Truck

SF-Safety Officer

FT-Foam Trailer

SR-Senior Ambulance Supervisor

HD-Hazmat District Chief


H-Hazmat Truck

TR - Technical Rescue

HS-Senior Hazmat Coordinator

UT-Utility Trailer


VL-Village Ladder

MC-Medical Cart (golf)

WS - Water Supply Unit


Common Terms


2-11, 3-11, etc. Two-Alarm, Three-Alarm Incident. The more alarms, the greater number of units and firefighters. 7-1 tap out, fire is under control and emergency no longer exists.
AC or AFC Assistant Fire Chief, command staff directly under EACs
ALS Advance Life Support care, EMS unit with paramedics - Medic, Squad and some Engine units
APPARATUS Any Type of Fire Unit
BLS Basic Life Support care. EMS unit with EMTs   - Engine, Ladder and BLS Ambulance units , the Ambulance is a transport unit.
BOX Ambulance, transport unit
BOX ALARM Structure fire for such structures as a house (also see heavy box)
CHIEF HOUSE Fire Station w/ a District Chief
DC District Chief or Deputy Chief. Deputy Chief is a shift commander, next level up from a District Chief.
DOUBLE HOUSE Fire Station, 2 fire apparatus, usually an engine and ladder
DTO District Training Officer, officers who document and conduct training for members within the district
EAC Executive Assistant Fire Chief, Command Staff directly under Fire Chief.
EAS Emergency Alerting System, alerts fire stations and announces the dispatch
E/O Engineer Operator (Driver)
EMS Emergency Medical Service
FFT Firefighter Trainee or a Cadet, civilian being trained at the HFD training academy to be a firefighter.
FOUR INCH 4 inch hose located in the back of the fire engine. 100 foot sections, used to connect to a plug.
FTA Fire Training Academy or VJTF (Val Jahnke Training Facility)
FTO Field Training Officer, captain or senior captain who documents and conducts training for probationary firefighters
GEAR What they wear / safety gear / bunker gear / Firefighting ensemble
HEAVY BOX Box fire for buildings and apartments, etc.
HFD Houston Fire Department
HOT ZONE Hazardous area around the incident, distances varies and is established by the IC
IC Incident Commander, usually a district chief
INCH & THREE QUARTER 1 3/4 inch hose usually pre-connected in 150 ft or 200ft to make a rapid fire attack.
INCIDENT An incident is the event the HFD is responding to.
LADDER Ladder Truck
MVA Motor Vehicle Accident
MVI Motor Vehicle Incident
OEC Office of Emergency Communications (formally Dispatch)
PAR Personal Accountability Report, conducted every 30 minutes and whenever a sudden hazardous event occurs
PLAN A EMS code for CPR protocol
PLUG Fire Hydrant
PM Preventive Maintenance
PROB FF Probationary Firefighter
PUBLIC SERVICE Call on phone
PUMPER Fire Engine
REDLINE 1 inch hose, reeled on an engine, used for small fires (car, trash, dumpster...)
RESPONSE Response is referring to individual units. For example, one incident may have three responding units.
RIT Rapid Intervention Team, to deploy when a firefighter is lost or trapped
SINGLE HOUSE Fire Station, 1 Bay
STAGE Units on location about 1 or 2 blocks away, uncommitted, standing by for an assignment
SYNCOPE EMS term, passing out, fainting, etc.
TAP OUT Also known as 7-1, means the fire is under control and an emergency no longer exists.
TIC Thermal Imaging Camera, tool to aid in rescue and to locate hidden fire
TOUR shift work week
TUSH HOG Good Firefighter