Fire Operations

Fire Stations

The Palo Alto Fire Department staffs six full time stations located strategically throughout the City with a staff of 103.50 full time positions and 0.55 hourly. To provide coverage in the sparsely developed hillside areas, an additional fire station in the foothills is operated during high fire danger days.

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The City of Palo Alto currently operates six different types of apparatus. Each apparatus has its own unique functions and capabilities.

Type 1 Fire Engine

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A Type 1 fire engine is what you'll most likely see if you live in Palo Alto. The City of Palo Alto relies on Type 1 fire apparatus based on versatility, staffing and the ability to operate at homes, apartments, businesses, urban interface and high rise buildings. Technically, a Type 1 fire engine is designed for structural firefighting however, this type of engine is very adaptable. Palo Alto's engines include a pump capable of discharging 1500 gpm, a 500 gallon water tank, nearly 3000 feet of different diameter hose, 30 feet of ladder, a 1,000 gpm Master Stream (deck gun), defibrillator for restarting a non-beating heart and emergency medical supplies including medications. One Captain, one Engineer, and one Firefighter/Paramedic staff all Type 1 engines in Palo Alto. These engines respond to calls for emergency medical service, fires, vehicles rescues and most anything you can think of.

Tiller Truck

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The terms "fire engine" and "fire truck" are often used interchangeably, however, they are quite different. While fire engines have water, hose and a pump, fire trucks typically don't. Fire trucks have hundreds of feet of portable ladder and a fixed ladder capable of extending upwards of 100 feet.  Staffed by a Captain, Engineer and a Firefighter/Paramedic, Palo Alto’s Truck 66 is a tractor-drawn aerial or Tiller Truck. Tiller style trucks are far more maneuverable than traditional commercial trucks of similar length. Truck 66 is equipped with a variety of specialized equipment including; jaws of life, ventilation fans, chain saws, lighting equipment, airbags for lifting large objects and an array of specialized tools. The primary tasks of Palo Alto’s truck company are search and rescue, roof operations, ventilation, forcible entry, auto extrication, stabilization of collapsed structures, emergency medical response, and a variety of technical rescue emergencies. Although trucks do not generally carry water they can provide a water tower that discharges up to 1250 gpm through the ladder pipe with the help of a pumper engine.

Type 3 Fire Engine


Type 3 fire engines are 4-wheel drive pumper units primarily used for vegetation fires. Type 3 engines are smaller than type 1 engines and can adapt to fire fighting in rough, hilly or mountainous terrain where access is a problem and fire hydrants are few or non-existent. Type 3 engines have the capability to pump water while the engine is driving forward. This technique is called pump and roll, and enables the crew to get a "running attack" on vegetation fires. These engines are also used for emergency responses in the foothills and back country where Type 1 engines are unable to navigate the terrain.  Palo Alto's type 3 fire engines carry 500 gallons of water, 30 gallons of foam )foam allows for liquid to penetrate deeply into vegetation) 2,000 feet of hose, emergency medical gear, rope rescue equipment and chain saws. Type 3 engines are a critical asset to the increasing threat that climate change poses on the wild land urban interface.


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An ambulance is a specialized vehicle used for transporting highly trained medical personnel and supplies to a sick or injured person and transporting them to the emergency department. Most people can recognize an ambulance but few people know what is inside. Ambulances are essentially miniature emergency rooms on wheels equipped with hundreds of medical devices, such as medicines, splints, oxygen, advanced airways, defibrillator and specialized tools to stabilize patients outside of the hospital setting. Ambulances respond to a majority of 911 requests and are staffed with at least one paramedic and one EMT.  Palo Alto has the ability to deploy 4 ambulances at any given time.

Breathing Support Unit


The Breathing Support Unit's primary role is to serve as a remote air-filling station. Equipped with a large air compressor and air scrubber (filter), the BS unit is able to fill multiple self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) bottles at the same time. The BS unit is also outfitted with telescoping lighting equipment capable of lighting up an emergency scene during nighttime operations.  The Palo Alto Fire Department  has equipped its BS unit with a compliment of tools including the "jaws of life" extrication tool, and is able to respond in the foothills west of highway 280 where the truck has limitations due to its size.


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The Patrol Unit (Brush Rig), is a four-wheel-drive unit used for vegetation or wildland fires. Patrol units are the smallest pumping apparatus Palo Alto Fire dispatches to a vegetation fire. With knobby tires and adequate ground clearance, patrol units can climb steep hills and make it through rough terrain. One of the features that make these engines ideal for vegetation fires is that they can pump water while driving. Traditional engines must be put into park to flow water. A Brush Rig is often used for an initial attack, and is built on a large-sized pickup truck chassis. Patrol units are utilized on medical responses in the rough, rocky fire roads where ambulances aren't recommended.

Standards of Cover

The Standards of Coverage and Deployment Plan assess the risk in the community and determine the distribution and concentration of emergency resources in order to ensure proper preparation to respond to potential emergency incidents. It offers an in-depth analysis of the Fire Department's resources and plans for high-level emergency incidents in accordance with the model developed by the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

VIEW: PAFD Standards of Cover 2018