Administrative structure of the fire bureau

Administrative structure of the fire bureau


Fire Chief George L. Holzschuh was appointed to the fire bureau on February 16, 1920. He served in both engine and truck companies as a fireman and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in April 1933, and served with Engine 16. He was named captain in October 1937, at which time he was assigned to Truck 2. He became a battalion chief in March 1943 and in May 1954, he was promoted to the rank of deputy chief. He was named chief on November 19, 1958. He is a member of the board of directors of the New York State Fire Chiefs Association and a member of the Monroe County Fire Advisory Board.

THE CITY OF ROCHESTER is governed by nine city councilmen who appoint a city manager as the fiscal head of the administration. The manager, in turn, appoints the commissioner of public safety, who serves at his pleasure. The commissioner is responsible for the fire bureau and in addition, the police bureau, parks and playgrounds, the building bureau, weights and measures, traffic control and the bureau of public safety radio. All members of the fire bureau including the fire chief are appointed by the commissioner of public safety.

The fire chief, administrative head of the fire bureau, is responsible for all operations including the assignment and transfer of personnel. He is assisted by an executive deputy chief, a head account clerk, an account clerk typist and a senior stenographer.

The table of organization of the bureau shows a total of 602 uniformed men and 38 civilian employees.

The fire bureau’s operational budget for last year amounted to $3,492,777, including $3,282,072 for salaries. This does not include the purchase of new equipment or fire stations as these items are charged to a separate capital improvement budget.

The line division includes three deputy chiefs, 15 battalion chiefs and their drivers, together with 528 officers and men assigned to fire stations. Administratively the division is divided into three groups, each headed by a deputy chief. For operations the city is divided into four battalions, with a battalion chief on duty with each group. Three floating battalion chiefs fill in when the regularly assigned chief is off duty or on detached duty for training or inspection work.

Each fire company is commanded by a captain who also heads a group. The other two groups in each company are commanded by a lieutenant. As an administrative policy, battalion chiefs and company officers are rotated among the different groups yearly.

When more than one company is assigned to a fire station, a “station commander” is designated. Although he is responsible for maintenance of the quarters, requisitioning of supplies, watch duty assignments, etc., the station commander does not interfere with the operation of the individual companies unless discipline of more than one company would be affected.

The line division works an average of 56 hours a week. Each member works a four-day tour of duty from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. He is then off duty until 6:00 p.m. the second day following his last tour of day duty. In turn, he works four nights from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. and is then off duty until 8:00 a.m. on the fourth day following his last night of duty. Sleeping is permitted on night tours and beds in quaters may be occupied between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Members of the fire bureau are allowed six months sick leave with full pay. Those injured on duty are given leave at full pay until they are able to return to duty. All members off duty because of injury or illness are under the command of the department physician.


All men are granted 15 days of furlough after one year of service, 21 days after five years of service, 28 days after 20 years and all furloughs start on Sunday. Furloughs are picked according to seniority in grade and no member is allowed to pick more than two consecutive weeks during the summer months. Military veterans are granted leave for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

There are two pension systems in effect in Rochester. Members appointed to the fire bureau prior to 1932 are in the city pension system and are eligible to retire at not less than one-half pay after 25 years of service and 55 years of age. Retirement is mandatory at 70. In the event of line-of-duty death, a widow receives one-half pay.

Firemen appointed after 1932 are members of the New York State Employees Retirement System. Upon joining the system, the men elect their retirement age. Benefits are based on an approximate one-quarter pay pension plus an annuity purchased by the member’s contribution. Men injured in line of duty may retire on three-quarters pay. Mandatory retirement age under this system is also 70 years.

The great majority of Rochester personnel are assigned to line companies. Modern equipment and methods are employed to facilitate fire fighting duties

—Gene Edwards photo

Weekly staff conferences are held in office of executive deputy chief to discuss fire fighting strategy and tactics as well as operational and administrative problemsAll applicants for fire fighter position are required to pass physical agility tests in addition to examinaton to determine mental fitness

The men are paid bi-weekly according to the following yearly salary schedule:

Dress uniforms are furnished by the bureau as required. Three sets of fatigue uniforms are furnished at appointment and two additional sets are furnished yearly. Boots, rubber coat and helmet are also supplied.

Original appointments to the bureau and promotions up to and including battalion chief are made from lists furnished by the municipal civil service commission. Position on these lists is determined by written examination plus seniority and experience. Appointments to the posts of deputy chief, deputy chief executive and fire chief are made by the commissioner of public safety without examination.

A merit rating system is in effect in the bureau. Awards are made for outstanding bravery, exceptional performance of duty, conscientious service, etc., based upon recommendations from commanding officers. These recommendations are forwarded to a board composed of officers of the National Guard, Naval Reserve, Army Reserve and city and county government, which passes on the merit of each case. The civil service commission recognizes these awards and allows from one to five points on promotional examinations for recipients.

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On-duty chiefs meet weekly in the office of the deputy chief executive to discuss operational problems. These sessions are also used to discuss strategy and tactics employed at large fires during the last tour of duty. It is the consensus of opinion that coordination between groups is improved by these meetings.

Major operational problems are referred to the recommendation committee. This committee is composed of the deputy chiefs who head the various divisions and the director of the bureau of municipal research. The chairman of this committee is the deputy chief executive.

The training division, under command of a deputy chief is responsible for all training activities. One battalion chief, two captains, one lieutenant and two firemen are assigned to this staff. Recruit training classes, in-service company training, officers’ training and specialized classes are held at the fire academy.

Company training

Each company officer is required to hold a two-hour training class daily at the fire station under the general supervision of the training division and monthly training reports are submitted. The training division publishes a manual that is used as a guide.

Fire prevention activities are the responsibility of the fire marshal, a deputy chief assigned to this duty by the chief. He is the enforcement authority for the city fire prevention code which is patterned after the suggested code of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. One battalion chief, two captains, four lieutenants, 12 firemen and two civilians are assigned to this division. Public assembly and school fire safety are the responsibilities of this division. In addition to the above personnel, one battalion chief and one detective lieutenant of the police bureau are detailed for fire investigation activities and report directly to the fire marshal.

The engineering and repair division is commanded by a deputy chief assisted by a fire equipment maintenance supervisor, one assistant supervisor and five senior maintenance mechanics. The engineering division and the fire training division cooperate in the testing of all new apparatus and appliances before they are recommended to the fire chief for approval and purchase.

The building maintenance division makes all repairs to the fire stations. Six members of the various trades are employed in this division and the building maintenance superintendent reports directly to the deputy chief executive.

The supply division is commanded by a captain, assisted by one lieutenant and six firemen. This division has charge of all supplies including hose and breathing apparatus. One man is always available to deliver extra air tanks to the scene of a major fire.

The communication system of the fire bureau is controlled by two separate divisions. The fire alarm maintenance division is commanded by a superintendent. He is directly responsible for the operation and maintenance of the fire alarm telegraph system and the fire bureau telephones. He is assisted by two foremen, two linemen, two cable splicers and two assistant linemen.

The dispatch center is commanded by the chief fire dispatcher. One senior dispatcher and two dispatchers are assigned to each of three groups that work exactly the same as the line division groups. Radio repairs are made by the bureau of public safety radio.

In common with most fire departments, Rochester has an overwhelming majority of men assigned to line fire fighting duties. At the same time, in keeping with sound administrative principles, a solid staff section is employed to service the unique needs of fire fighting operations. This permits continuous planning and evaluation of all phases and increases effectiveness and efficiency.

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