Fire FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about AFD.

Page updated on Nov 15, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. How many people work for the Fire Department? 

A. The Fire Department has 268 employees.

Q. What distance is the fire hydrant closest to my house? 

A.  In most parts of Alexandria, houses are within 500 feet of a hydrant.

Q. Why do I see fire fighters running at the local park or taking the fire truck to the gym? 

A.  Firefighting is a physically challenging profession that requires a high level of physical and mental readiness. The nature of the occupation demands a great deal of physical strength and stamina. To insure the safety of our operational personnel and the well-being of Alexandria residents and visitors we serve, our crews are required to perform physical fitness activity while on duty.

Q. Why do your fire trucks use lights and sirens, even in the middle of the night when there is no traffic? 

A. The purpose of emergency warning equipment is to let drivers and pedestrians know that an emergency vehicle is on the way to an emergency. By state law (§ 46.2-920), we do have certain privileges extended to us. Those being, to proceed through controlled intersections without stopping, travel against the designated flow of traffic. All of these privileges have rules that the legislation and department policy put on the drivers of these emergency vehicles. The main rule is that we can not do these things unless there are lights flashing and sirens going. Even in the middle of the night.

Q. Why do I see fire trucks from Arlington and Fairfax in Alexandria? 

A.  Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax have an Interjurisdictional Response Agreement. This agreement provides for the closest engines and trucks to respond to an incident regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. For instance, in the 4600 block of King Street, which is in Alexandria, engines would respond from all three departments. This improves coverage in the City and keeps Alexandria from having to build additional fire stations in areas near these two jurisdictions.

Q. I saw a City of Alexandria  fire truck at a local grocery store , and some of the firefighters were inside shopping for food. Why do firefighters use fire trucks for non-emergency purposes while they are on duty? 

A.  To ensure the most effective service at the time of an emergency, our crews must remain in their designated response territory with their fire trucks during their entire shift. Our crews work 24-hour shifts with no scheduled breaks, and meals are not provided by the City. Personnel on each shift must purchase their own food and prepare their own meals, so they usually make a daily trip to the grocery store within their territories to buy whatever they need to prepare their meals for the entire shift.
Fire and Medic crews do not have to be sitting in the fire station to be dispatched to a call. Since all City units maintain constant radio contact with Fire Communications and the entire crew must always be together with their truck, they are always ready to respond to any emergency, regardless of their current location or non-emergency assignment. Very often, our firefighters and paramedics spend long periods of their day running calls, without returning to the station or stopping to eat, and they frequently have to return to the grocery store several times to finish purchasing food that they might not get a chance to cook during the shift

Q. Why does a fire engine come when I only requested an ambulance? 

A.  A fire truck will sometimes arrive at an incident first because it is the closest emergency unit to the scene and we are committed to getting help to your location as fast as possible. The City has eight fire stations spaced strategically around the City. All firefighters are trained to provide basic emergency medical treatment. Since there are only five medic units in the City, firefighters respond to all calls involving life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, and severe bleeding. They initiate treatment to stabilize patients and provide information to the paramedics en route to the call so they will be aware of any additional advanced life support equipment that will be needed on the scene.

Q. What is the charge for being transported to the hospital by medic unit? 

A.  When a patient is transported to a hospital/medical facility, the fee will be one of the following:

  • for Basic Life Support (BLS) the charge is $500- Basic Life Support (BLS) is the transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medical supplies and services without Advanced Life Support intervention.


  • for Advanced Life Support, Level One (ALS-1) the charge is $650 - ALS-1 service is the transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medically necessary supplies and services including the provision of an ALS assessment and at least one ALS intervention.


  • for Advanced Life Support, Level 2 (ALS-2) the charge is $800 - ALS-2 service is the transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medically necessary supplies and services including: (1) at least three separate administrations of one or more medications by intravenous push/bolus or by continuous infusion; or (2) ground ambulance transport and the provision of at least one very advanced life support procedure.

    In addition,

  • for all transports a charge of $10.00 per mile is charged based on the number of miles a patient is transported to a medical facility.

Q. Why do you send so many fire vehicles to a fire, especially a small fire? 

A.  There are a number of specialized roles that firefighters undertake on a fire call, and it is necessary to have enough firefighters on the scene of an incident. Firefighting is a very labor intensive activity. If you get behind because there are not enough firefighters on the call, it is more difficult to extinguish a fire quickly.

Q. Do you have bingo at my fire station? 

A.  No.

Q. How do I arrange to tour a fire station? 

A. To tour a fire station, submit an  Event Request . We suggest contacting us 28 days prior to the desired tour date. We will put you in contact with the closest fire station for your tour.

Q. Do fire stations host birthday parties? 

A.   Unfortunately, we do not have the proper facilities to have birthday parties at any Alexandria Fire Department fire station. While we are not able to accommodate birthday parties at the fire stations , we welcome groups to schedule a fire station tour. (See station tour information.)

Q. How can I get a copy of a fire incident or medical incident report? 

A.  You can arrange to receive an incident report by calling the Computer Specialist at 703-746-5200. There is a fee of $3.00 for each report. Reports for medical incidents require the authorization of the individual patient or guardian and proof of relationship.

Q. How can I get a smoke detector from the Fire Department? Will you change the batteries? 

A.  The Alexandria Fire Department purchases a limited number of smoke alarms for distribution to City of Alexandria residents who may otherwise not be able to afford them. If you can afford a smoke alarm but have a question or concern regarding installation of your own smoke alarm, please contact our Community Services Unit at 703-746-5260.

Q. Where can I go to have my child safety seat inspected or installed? 

A.    The Alexandria Police Department provides assistance in installing and inspecting child safety seats. For information on APD's program, please visit their website or call to request an appointment at 703.746.1995. You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator website to find a location near you.  The Alexandria Fire Department does not have a child safety seat installation and inspection program.

Q.  I see an above ground fuel tank at one of your fire stations.  Is this safe? 

A.  The above-ground fuel storage tank is compliant with all applicable codes/regulations in force at the time it was installed. Where possible, above-ground fuel storage is  preferred over below-ground storage to limit the potential for environmental problems stemming from leaking underground storage tanks.

Q. What are the different shift schedules for fire personnel?


Fire Suppression: 56-Hour Week
Work 24 hours - Off 24 hours
Work 24 hours - Off 24 hours
Work 24 hours - Off 4 Days

In one year, a firefighter on the 56-hour work week schedule works 728 hours above the number worked by a 40-hour employee. If applied to a twenty-five-year career, the 56-hour employee will have worked an additional 8.75 years, or the equivalent of 33.75 40-hour/week years.

Emergency Medical Services: 42-Hour Week
Work 24 hours - Off 48 hours
Work 24 hours - Off 4 Days

In one year, employees on the 42-hour work week schedule work 104 hours above the number worked by a 40-hour employee. If applied to a twenty-five-year career, the 42-hour employee will have worked an additional 1.25 years, or the equivalent of 26.25 40-hour/week years.

Fire Prevention and Life Safety

Deputy Fire Marshals
4 work shift
days = 7:00 am to 6:00 pm for two days
nights = 6:00 pm to 6:00 am for two days
four days off

4 work day work Monday through Friday
7:30 am to 4:00 pm

Fire Protection Systems Inspectors

10 hour work day Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday
4:30 am to 4:00 pm

Q. How can I get in contact with the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.?

A. Click Here 

Q. Need a copy of your Fire Department incident or ambulance report?

A. Click Here

Q. What is the process for obtaining a hydrant meter?

A. Click Here