Fire service organizations can be classified as career, volunteer, or a combination of both. Career staff members are paid for their work, while volunteer members are unpaid. Combination organizations have both career and volunteer staff. Career organizations typically serve the larger, more urban or industrial settings, although many smaller cities or towns will have a full or partial career staff. Volunteer organizations are usually found in more suburban or rural settings, although some serve densely populated areas and have very high emergency response rates.
Another way to categorize fire departments is by whether fire stations are staffed with personnel ready to respond. Most career organizations have personnel who remain in the station while on duty. However, “call firefighters” are paid on a per-response or hourly basis and do not remain in their station awaiting emergency calls. Most volunteers respond from home or work when they are alerted to an emergency. On the other hand, there are organizations that have volunteer personnel staffing their stations on shifts or even living in the stations.
Another fire service organization is the industrial fire brigade. This is an organized group of employees specifically trained to provide fire suppression, and perhaps related emergency activities, for a specific employer. Members may be dedicated full time to emergency operations, or emergency response may be a part-time, collateral duty.