Fire stations are located strategically throughout neighborhoods, allowing firefighters to reach the emergency situation within a predetermined amount of time. The fire station acts as storage for fire engines, fire trucks, protective equipment, hoses, and other equipment. Many stations also house medic vehicles if the firefighters transport patients. There are a few different uses for the station besides storing equipment.
Many fire departments run 24 hour or longer shifts, meaning the fire fighters sleep at the station. Within the station are dormitories, or sleeping quarters, with beds and lockers. Much of the time, the personnel provide their own bedding, which is taken home at the end of each shift. The sleeping quarters are often located above the garage within two story buildings. Should the alarm sound during the night, the firefighters access the garage via pole, slide or stairs.
The fire station is also where the firefighters prepare their meals. A separate kitchen is set aside for their use. Most fire departments require that the firefighters contribute to the meal fund, which is used for grocery shopping. Often, the fire fighters take turns cooking the meals. Some departments require that the rookie fire fighter cook on every shift until he has completed his probationary period.
In the station's garage, you can usually find the firefighter's turnouts hanging from hooks, with the boots and helmets located above or below them. This allows for easy access when the alarm sounds. Within the garage the firefighters also inspect and repair the engines and trucks as necessary, making sure they are always in operable condition. During down time, the firefighters are responsible for the cleaning and polishing of the engines and trucks, which also takes place in the garage or driveway.
The fire station may also be used for hosting fundraisers, such as the pancake breakfast, by the Firemen's Association or Fire Buffs. Other stations may host activities during fire prevention week. There are even some stations that pass out candy during Halloween.
Large cities often name the station for the fire companies or the apparatus that are housed there. For example, a fire station may have a name of Engine 18, because it houses an engine with the number 18. If the station is located in an rural area, it may be named for the town in which it is stationed, such as the El Dorado Fire Station. Many forestry fire departments are named for the actual fire district, such as Diamond Springs Fire District.