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Frequently Asked Questions

Fire & Rescue Frequently Asked Questions

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

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 Pennsylvania state law, we do have certain privileges extended to us. Those being, to carefully proceed through controlled intersections and travel against the designated flow of traffic. These privileges have rules that the legislation and department policy put on the drivers of these emergency vehicles. The main rule is that we cannot do these things unless there are lights flashing and sirens going. Even in the middle of the night.


I saw a City of Reading fire truck at a local grocery store.

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 10 and 14-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 may make a daily trip to the grocery store within their first due neighborhood 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.

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

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 six fire stations spaced strategically around the City and one ambulance station. All firefighters are trained to provide basic emergency medical treatment. Since there are only four paramedic 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.


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

Each fire truck only carries two firefighters and it is necessary to have enough firefighters on the scene of an incident. There are a number of specialized roles that firefighters undertake at the scene of a fire, and 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.


How do I arrange to tour a fire station?

Please visit this page on our website. We suggest contacting us at least 30 days in advance prior to the desired tour date.  We can then schedule your tour at the closest fire station.
After clicking the link,
Fire safety programs are available for schools, senior citizen groups, and industries; in addition, tours of one of our six fire stations can be arranged for groups of up to 30 individuals (larger groups are invited to arrange multiple tours). Arrangements may be made by contacting Esmeralda Villasenor, Fire Administrative Secretary, at 610-655-6080, or by completing this form and faxing it to: 610-655-6395 or by mailing it to:
Department of Fire
815 Washington Street, Suite 1-41
Reading, PA 19601

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

You can arrange to receive an incident report by calling the Department of Fire and Rescue Services at 610-655-6080. There is a fee to acquire a report of $35.00 for each report. Reports for medical incidents can be acquired by calling 610-655-XXXX (Ambulance station).


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

The City of Reading Department of Fire and Rescue Services purchases a limited number of smoke alarms for distribution to City of Reading residents who may otherwise not be able to afford them (see the Office of the Fire Marshal page). If you can afford a smoke alarm but have a question or concern regarding installation of your own smoke alarm, please contact the Office of the Fire Marshal at 610-655-6080.


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

You can visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Locator website to find a location near you.  The City of Reading, Department of Fire and Rescue Services does not offer child safety seat installation and inspection program.