A Blog By PJ Kellam – Firefighter/Photographer

Wait…! What Do You Call It?!


The root of all evil.

I am becoming more and more convinced every day.

Anyways I was browsing Facebook earlier and saw a post from one of my friends that got me thinking (what else is new?). The post was a picture of him standing next to a big city (not mentioning names) engine company sitting in quarters. He is a on a road trip up north to the city and is visiting firehouses while he is there.

So what’s the issue? I was reading through the comments (trying to think of something smart or funny to say as usual) and I came upon one that read something like “look at my son, visiting firehalls no matter where he goes.”

I began to ponder and realized that the members of most big city fire departments NEVER call it a “fire HALL”, but rather a fire HOUSE. I, for one, believe it should be called a fire HOUSE because you live there while on shift. You clean it, you watch TV in it, you work in it, and you eat in it. It is a place with open doors where people can feel safe and most of all it is a place that contains a FAMILY. No matter what shape or size, how many floors or apparatus, or how many personnel are stationed there, career or volunteer, it is still a place you can call home in some way.

So I posted a thing to my Facebook wall that said “It’s called a fire HOUSE not a station or a hall.”


I immediately met resistance. SHOCKER.
But the resistance ended up sparking a great conversation that turned into a history lesson/opinion match. The following points were brought up:The term “Fire Hall” comes from the old departments that had one building for fire department that was also used as a city hall and public meeting point because the people that were a part of one were usually a part of all of the above. Some places still do it today and it works well for them.

The term “Fire House” comes from the old lingo of the early days of big city fire departments. The places where pieces of apparatus and/or horses were kept were called “engine houses”. Some departments still use the terms “Engine House” or “Wagon House” and it has been that way due to tradition.The term “Fire House” is now a commonly used term to describe a fire station of any sort in any area.

The term “Fire Station” comes from the early days of “Fire Wardens” (see the history of the FDNY to learn more about fire wardens) and evolved into more modern use with wild land firefighting and “Fire Towers” used for spotting forest fires. These towers or other locations are where the fire watch personnel are “stationed” to look for fires.Station1So what’s the right term? After a few lines of discussion and teaching on Facebook, we came to an agreement that you can use any term. The term used should reflect the tradition of the fire service that relates to the particular location and its history. The major idea behind it all is to preserve that tradition, and display the awesome sense of pride and ownership that (theoretically) flows through the air when you walk into a firehouse.

So what do you call it? Post some comments and share what you call yours and why you call it that.

And don’t forget to jump into this and many more conversations with the Views Crew on twitter @PJ_Kellam.

2 responses

  1. I use both “firehall” and “station” equally during casual conversation, but never “fire” and “station” together. “Station” exclusively if it’s radio traffic (“Engine X back on station” or w/e).

    I’ve occasionally used the term “firehouse” but only when suggesting where to eat lol…

    November 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm

  2. When I was a volley in NJ, we called it a Firehouse. My son, a career guy in San Diego, just calls it work… It’s a matter of perspective.

    December 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm

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