Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)


H. Lee Cheek


Fire Department Staffing, Fire Department, Fire Apparatus


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Fire and rescue services are considered a staple among services provided by governments to local communities. Local governments are often charged with providing these services, especially across the United States and Canada. As with any professional service, there are standards set forth in order to ensure services are adequate and provide equity to the citizens that they serve. The purpose of this dissertation will be to delve into the common staffing configurations of career fire departments across the United States and Canada, particularly related to staffing levels on fire engines and ladder trucks. Fire departments utilize various staffing models, but commonly, fire engines and ladder trucks have complements of three or four firefighter crews in career departments in the United States and Canada. Industry standards suggests that a minimum of four firefighters should be staffed on each of these apparatus types. However, as a standard, there is flexibility for local departments to staff according to need, whether based on fiscal need or service demand. This dissertation examines correlations between staffing fire engines and ladder trucks with three personnel and higher property loss, as well as greater numbers of human casualties related to fire, verses communities that staff these apparatuses with four personnel. Data was collected from career fire departments across the United States and Canada, then statistically analyzed to determine if there was a correlation of lower staffing and higher property loss and greater human casualties as the result of fire incidents. The results illustrated some surprise findings where it is questionable if staffing levels impact fire loss and human casualties.