Special Operations

The department’s Specialty Operations began in 1980 with the formation of the department's Hazardous Materials Response Unit. Over the years, other specialized units were added such as Marine 1, Rescue 1, Decontamination 1 and the Vault Response Group. These special operation units are not intended as a replacement for first-line engine and ladder companies, but rather, to complement them. The department has a variety of specialty equipment and apparatus used to augment general operations. Special operation units continually drill and train to keep their skills sharp, enabling the department to be an industry leader. These units also participate in training other members of the fire department on various diciplines.

Special Operations

Rescue 1 is dispatched in addition to other operations units to the City’s most challenging responses, that require special equipment and training. Rescue 1 responds out of Fire Station 14 in the SODO area.

Rescue 1's responsibilities include responding to the following types of incidents:

  • Structural collapses
  • Trench/cave-in rescue
  • Rope rescue
  • Dive rescue
  • Confined space rescue
  • Heavy machinery and vehicle entrapment incidents
  • Tunnel emergencies
  • And any other complex incident that requires training beyond operations level

The Seattle Fire Department is staffed 24/7 with a fireboat crew ready to respond on one of four fireboats depending on the location and nature of emergency. Station 5 on Seattle's Waterfront, is home to the 108-foot Fireboat Leschi and 50-foot Fireboat 2. Station 3, at Fisherman's Terminal in Ballard, is home to the 97-foot Fireboat Chief Seattle and 50-foot Fireboat 1. The Fireboats are prepared to respond to:

  • Ship Fires
  • Marina Fires
  • Water Rescues
  • And other water related emergencies

Fire Station 5 on the waterfront is also home to Rescue Boat 5, which is staffed by the Engine 5 crew and can quickly deploy to emergency scenes. 

Fire Station 36 in West Seattle is home to Marine 1, which is a unit focused on land-based firefighting operations for fires that occur on or near the water. 

The Hazardous Materials Response Team (Unit 77) began in 1980 and was the first of several specialized units that the department has in operation today.

A Hazardous Materials incident is generally described as the intentional or accidental release of toxic, combustible, illegal or dangerous nuclear, biological or chemical agents into the environment.

HazMat responses are generalized under three categories:

  • Intentional releases – This type of hazardous materials response is created when individuals and/or companies knowingly and illegally emit or dump toxic waste into landfills, waterways, the atmosphere and the environment in general.
  • Accidental releases – This is the most common type of incident that the Hazardous Materials Team responds to. These incidents include the release of all types of spills and leaks of toxic agents resulting from collisions, container breakage or failure, fires, floods and simple human error.
  • Domestic Terrorism – Domestic Terrorism is the intentional release of deadly biological or chemical agents, such as Anthrax or Nerve Gas, into the general population.

The Hazardous Materials Unit continually progresses and increases capabilities to deal with special emergencies. Equipment has been tested and selected that most effectively protects personnel, detects and identifies released agents and contains them.