Fire stations of the world: Japan’s Tokyo Fire Department
The Tokyo Fire Department is headquartered in Ōtemachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. The Tokyo Fire Department was formed on 7 March 1948 as a municipal fire service and is responsible for protecting the Tokyo Metropolis Area. The Fire Department is the largest urban fire department in the world. Covering the 23 Wards of Tokyo and parts of Western Tokyo, it provides assistance in case of fires, biological, chemical and radioactive hazards, as well as earthquakes and flooding. First response for medical services and all types of rescues are also provided. The department handles varied challenges from urban settings to mountain forests. The Tokyo Fire Department is part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. However, this department is distinguished from Fire and Disaster Management Agency, which is an external agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
About 18 500 TFD personnel work at fire and life safety for about 13 000 000 people in the urban and rural areas of about 177km2 characterised by a lot of high-rise apartment buildings, commercial facilities and mountain greenery.
Japan's first fire service was founded in 1629 during the Edo era and was called Hikeshi, literally meaning fire eraser. During the Meiji Period, when Japan opened its doors to the West, the Hikeshi was merged into the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department in 1881. During this time period, pumps were imported and domestically produced and modern fire fighting strategies were introduced. The fire service would remain part of the police department until 1948 when the Tokyo Fire Department was established.
Each fire station has the latest fire apparatus and is ready all the time to respond to emergencies. The Tokyo Fire Department boasts 18 620 personnel of which 18 197 is uniformed and 423 non-uniformed. There 81 fire stations in Tokyo in three divisions and 208 branches. The Tokyo Fire Department reported 1 995 fire apparatus in 2019.
The Tokyo Fire Department’s fire engines are four-ton truck chassis vehicles with the pump for the water discharge of 2 000ℓ/m or more. It has a motor hose car, a hand-drawn hose car, a three-section ladder, a roof ladder etc. The gear on a turnout uniform weighs about 20kg or more. Fire fighters may continue their operations for hours. They undergo severe training every day to develop their physical strength.
Small fire engine with a water tank
The small fire engines also have water tanks and are conveniently small for great mobility in a small area. It has a 1 000-litre water tank, a fire extinguishing agent mixer and others.
The TFD has 10 fireboats totally in Rinko, Nihonbashi, and Takanawa Fire Stations. For maritime safety, they go on guard against ship fires and coast fires, conduct fire fighting and rescue etc. They are on standby all the time.
Water rescue trucks
It is a water rescue company vehicle to respond to the incidents caused by river over-flowing, typhoon flooding etc. It has a scuba gear container, an outside ship equipment container, a lighting system, a shower space, rescue tools and others.
The Aviation Unit has eight helicopters totally in the Tokyo Heliport in Shinkiba, Koto Ward and the Tachikawa Airfield in Izumi-cho, Tachikawa City. Helicopters conduct fact-finding, fire-fighting, mountain/river rescue, EMS activities for mainland/Izu Islands residents and others. In addition, they respond to devastating disasters at home as part of the Emergency Fire Response Team.
TFD HQ Rescue Operation Forces
The team is a newly formed unit responding quickly, sometimes with other groups, to natural disasters. The members go into mud stream or inundated areas by special apparatus or rescue air boats, conduct fact-finding by a drone system and more.
First Aid Team
The team aims to speed up the initial response to disasters. At the request of Tokyo residents, the members take quick action in a varied manner. They strive to prevent the spread of disasters in narrow and small areas, conduct first aid, reduce the damage of the accidents caused by elderly people and more.
Fire fighting robotics
The department currently has 12 different types of fire fighting and rescue robots. These robots are designed to handle disasters that are too dangerous for personnel during an emergency. Some types of robots can shoot water or foam on to fires. One type can rescue a person and another type is able to move large objects. Currently all robots are controlled by remote operators. Future fire fighting robotics might have simple artificial intelligence to search for life and be able to move on terrain without operator's assistance.
Ranking system and uniforms
Rank insignias are on a small badge, pinned above the right pocket. Rank is denoted by stripes and hexagram stars. The design of the insignias came from older Japanese-style military insignias. Some rank badges are different colours such as the fire jacket for a station commander.
The dress uniforms are a blue suit and normal firemen wear jumpsuits in the same colour with orange reflection stripes. A normal fireman's fire jacket is brown with orange stripes. Gray and white are reserved for emergency medical services with their work uniform. They are mostly seen with a light blue raincoat over them on a call. Orange is reserved for rescuer where they wear a jump suit with the same colour. The fire jacket is orange with yellow reflection stripes. Black fire jacket with yellow and silver reflection strips are for specialized firemen or officers.
Source: Tokyo Fire Department