Our department was founded in 1906,
and we want you to be a part of our future.
Roanoke Fire-EMS is a full-service fire and emergency medical service agency providing basic and advanced pre-hospital life support, fire prevention and education programs, fire suppression services, arson detection, vehicle extrication, and heavy technical rescue. It also supports a regional hazardous materials team. In addition to housing firefighting and EMS personnel and apparatus, fire-EMS stations are neighborhood resources. Fire-EMS personnel at these sites help distribute important city documents, teach children about fire safety, and provide a safe place for lost children and adults.
Our department operates 11 stations with 10 fire engines, 4 ladder trucks, 9 ambulances, 3 relief EMS units, and 4 supervisor vehicles (Battalions 1 & 2, RS-1 & 2) 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We serve an urban resident population of approximately 100,000 in an area of 43 square miles, and answer over 28,000 fire and EMS runs annually. For department statistics, click here.
Roanoke Fire-EMS holds a Class 1 rating from the Insurance Service Organization, the highest rating you can receive. This rating helps our community by bringing lower insurance rates to homeowners and businesses. Roanoke Fire-EMS is also an Internationally Accredited Agency through the Centers for Public Safety Excellence(CPSE) and the Commission on Fire Accreditation International(CFAI).
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The Roanoke Fire Department was first organized in the fall of 1882 by concerned citizens, specifically Norfolk & Western Railroad employees and downtown businessmen. A totally volunteer organization of forty individuals started functioning in 1883, with horse-drawn equipment from a First Street and Campbell Avenue location.
The department hired the first paid firefighters in 1906, with the establishment of Fire Station #1 on Church Street. The city was small enough that most fires could be spotted from the bell tower of this historic building.
In 1911, the first engine powered fire trucks were purchased: three Seagrave pumpers, each with a powerful 75-horse-powered engine. In 1918, the last horse-drawn fire wagon was placed out of service, a sign of the changing times for the City of Roanoke and the Roanoke Fire Department.
The Department grew slowly as major fires plagued the downtown business district. In 1936, men were hired to start a two-platoon system went into effect, which caused significant growth in the department, and is the current shift configuration.
Major jurisdictional annexations took place in 1949, when twenty-nine square miles were acquired, and again in 1976, when the western boundary was established. These annexations caused the growth of the department in both numbers of fire stations and increased personnel. In 1952, firefighters organized to form a union, IAFF (International Association of Firefighters) Local 1132. To this day, IAFF Local 1132 plays a significant role in the culture and services provided to Roanoke citizens.
A significant customer service initiative was undertaken in 1991, with the First Responder program, the department's first involvement in providing medical services to the community. Appropriately, in 1995, the Roanoke Fire Department merged with the Roanoke EMS (Emergency Medical Services) to form the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department. This merger also linked the fire department with Roanoke Emergency Medical Services, the first volunteer rescue organization in the nation. Roanoke Emergency Medical Services, REMS, helps provide ambulance and rescue services during the night and weekends by staffing at least one Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance during those hours.
REMS draws a set stipend from ambulance fees and acts as a purchasing agent for all the medical supplies used by any city ambulance, in addition to providing all ambulance maintenance.
Expanded regional cooperation with the County of Roanoke, City of Salem, and Town of Vinton, has taken place since 1995. A regional radio system, permitting the four jurisdictions' emergency units to talk directly with each other, has greatly enhanced the ability to respond to major incidents and coordinate emergency efforts. Standardization of equipment and fire fighting components, such as 5" supply hose and the adoption of a valley-wide Incident Management System (IMS), have laid the foundation for greater regional cooperation.
The most significant regional cooperative effort for the fire service has been the construction of the Roanoke Valley Regional Fire-EMS Training Center. This modern training complex provides the Roanoke Valley with a state-of-the-art training facility that will foster and support future regional efforts, including a Regional Fire-EMS Recruit Academy.