What is a "3 Alarm Fire"?

What is a 3 or 5 alarm fire? Are there 4 alarm fires?

What is the highest alarm fire on record?


An “Alarm” is when a firestation is called to respond to the fire.
Thus a 3 alarm had 3 stations called to respond.
I’d assume that these California fires are multiple alarm.

"The one-l lama . . . . "

There is no standard for what responds to a “3 alarm fire.” It’s not necessarily the number of stations that respond. For example, some fires can be handled by only 1 engine, which is often not the only apparatus at a station.

I’m on a smaller department, so our second alarm would be a mutual aid response from neighboring department. In contrast, the FDNY’s second alarm response would be:

It’d take us 4 departments (at least) to get even close to that amount of equipment. Here’s some info on Chicago Fire’s second alarm response.

Also, wildland fires don’t necessarily go by alarms. They may if the only responding agency is a municipal fire department. However, the Forest Service, and most federal agencies rate incidents from Type V to Type I, with Type I being the largest and most complex incidents.

Here are some guidelines for these incidents:

Type V incidents are typically small fires that are contained quickly by the first-due engine/crew.

The Grand Prix fire is an example of a Type I incident. There are also some other guidelines., including more than 500 personnel involved. (Note: wildland info from this PDF)

St. Urho