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How Are Local Fire Trucks Numbered? WYSO Curious Investigates

Brandon Giesbrecht
Flickr Creative Commons

There are dozens of fire stations and fire trucks in each county around the Miami Valley. And W-Y-S-O listener Shannon Sellars was curious about how these fire trucks and fire stations get their numbers. WYSO Curious intern Liam Niemeyer searches for the answer.

Back in 2005, Fairborn Fire Chief Mike Riley and other Greene County fire officials had a problem.

“It was fairly common for each jurisdiction to have an engine one. And if you had a large fire in your jurisdiction you could have five engine ones there.”

Before then, each community fire department in Green County had its fire stations numbered by how many the community had: fire station number one, two, and so on. Fire trucks, or engines, were usually numbered after their station: fire engine one at fire station one. But if fire engines from different communities responded to the same fire, things could get tricky.

“Well, is that engine one from Fairborn? Is that engine one from Beavercreek? Who’s doing what? It just becomes very difficult to manage,” says Riley.

So, Greene County fire officials came up with a solution. Each community was given an unique set of numbers for their stations.

“They try to give it a series," says Riley. "Like, [Fairbon is] one through nine. The city of Xenia is 30 through 39. So their Fire Chief is chief 30. And their stations are 31 and 32. Bellbrook is 20 through 29. Sugar Creek is...”

Fairborn has only four stations, which are numbered one through four. But if the city ever wanted to build more stations, it has the rest of the one through nine series to number new stations. And numbering fire engines remains the same: Fire Engine Two is at Station Two. Fire Engine 62 is at Station 62 in Beavercreek.

Most fire stations changed their numbers to the new system.  But one fire station in Fairborn got to keep its number.

“The old place will always be called the rock, but we’ll just call this one the rock too. [laughs] It’s still station one," says Mike Kincaid, platoon lieutenant for one of the fire crews at Fairborn’s Fire Station One. They call Station 1 “The Rock” to honor the nickname of  the old fire station they moved out of in 2007.

Fairborn operations chief David Reichert says firefighters identify with the fire station number and nickname, “You’ll see some of the guys running around with the station one logo on them on the back of their shirt. But it’s just pride and ownership. The guys are proud of and want to represent the station that they roll out of, and we embrace that.”

These firefighters spend a lot of time here, and Kincaid says that makes for a tight-knit group and creates competition with other fire stations, especially the ‘Fighting Fours.’

“We razz each other. Station Four across town is the other busy station. And they’re always talking about Fighting Fours, or fours doing all the calls, and tip of the spear, which when it comes down to it, we’re all just as busy. And we dish it out and take it, and just go on.”

Because this is Station One, all the fire trucks, medics and other vehicles in the station are labeled number one. If you see a fire engine or ambulance numbered one through nine in Greene County, it’s from Fairborn and only Fairborn.

“But I can’t have two Medic One’s. I can’t have two Medic Two’s. You’re not going to go anywhere in the county and find another Medic Five. You might find a 61, 62, 63, in the 30’s…”

Greene County borrowed from the fire station numbering systems already in place in Montgomery County and Franklin County, with Columbus establishing a similar system in the early 80’s.

But go outside of Ohio, and the way fire stations and fire engines are numbered is all over the place. Frank Clay, President of the Miami Valley Fire and EMS Alliance, knows this from his experience as a firefighter in other states.

“Some of the more rural counties like big numbers for some reason. You get yourself down in Alabama and Mississippi, and you get a lot of three or four digit things.”

Clay also says fire Stations in Maryland are numbered in three digits by how close they are to Washington D.C., for example. It’s whatever numbering system works best for local firefighters in a particular area. But to Clay, numbers don’t mean much.

“It can have a three digit number or a six digit number. It doesn’t make any difference. As long as grandma is having chest pains, someone takes care of her problem.” 

WYSO Curious is sponsored by Proto BuildBar, proud supporter of curious minds.


Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."