New York City Fire Department helmet numbers indicate what station that firefighter is based in. The number matches the fire engine number. The second number is the ladder number. One glance gives the information necessary to identify what station house a firefighter works out of. When you see a fire engine, the drivers and the firefighters will all have the same engine number as the truck they’re riding in.
Companies and Battalions
The basic unit of a fire station is referred to as the company. It may be only one piece of equipment and a crew, supervised by a captain or a Lieutenant. One truck may have 2 drivers or one driver and one firefighter. Larger areas have more than one truck and a crew for each. Fire engines or trucks are assigned numbers and the fire station that houses that engine or truck is considered that engine's home. This fire station number is indicated on the firefighter’s hat. Most battalions consist of about five stations and the companies quartered in those stations. Usually, a battalion chief oversees all five stations.
Districts may consist of more than one battalion in large cities. For smaller areas there may only be a North, South, East and West battalion. The NYFD consists of several districts. Each district has a district chief. Brooklyn has an East and West district. There is also the Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx and the Queens districts.
Volunteer and Marine Crews
Each district also has a volunteer crew and a marine division. Volunteer crews get called out as they are needed. A volunteer may be on a paid or unpaid basis. The marine division handles calls concerning vessels and fires on the water. Some stations in forest areas may have fire camp crews or other special crews that handle particular types of fires, such as chemical or utility-based fires.
Each district in New York has an engine number and a ladder number. An “E” on a helmet stands for the word “engine.” For example, the Manhattan district has engines numbered 1 through 40. The firefighter’s helmets in that district will have E and an engine number. Districts also have a ladder number which refers to the ladder truck. For a representative example, a firefighter’s helmet might have E247 on one side and L178 on the other.