Station numbering in Montgomery County was originally based on the order in which the local volunteer fire department was organized. Silver Spring Fire Department was organized in 1915 so they have Montgomery County Station 1. Rockville Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1921 as the third department in the county so RVFD has Station 3. The exception to the general rule is Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department Station 2. That department was organized in 1895 but did not become part of the Montgomery County system until later. The station numbering continued to 15 with the organization of the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department in 1947. The number 16 was used by Silver Spring for their second station and the last new fire department, Laytonsville District VFD used the next available number for their Station 17.
Fire departments could choose the station number they wanted when new stations were built. Rockville VFD chose the numbers 23 and 33 for our subsequent stations (13 was already taken by Damascus VFD). Other examples include Stations 4 and 40 for Sandy Spring VFD; Stations 12 and 24 for Hillandale VFD. Some departments just used the next available number in the list. In the early 1980’s the Montgomery County Fire Board, which then had responsibility for fire/rescue service in the county, decided that any new stations after that time would utilize sequential numbering after the gaps were filled in. This is why RVFD has as its newest station, Station 31 instead of, say Station 43.
Apparatus numbering previously was based on the Montgomery County station number, the type of apparatus and the number of that type. For example, the primary engine from Station 3 was known as Engine 31, the second engine as Engine 32, etc. Brush trucks always had the number 5, such as Brush 335 and ambulances had the number 9 for the primary ambulance, such as Ambulance 39; Ambulance 38 would be the second ambulance, etc.
In 2007, the Montgomery County Fire Chief ordered that the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service begin using the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) unit numbering system. The system uses the numeric designation of the participating county or jurisdiction based primarily on alphabetical order, then the station number. Montgomery County is #7 in the order. Rockville VFD Station 3 is officially known in this system as Station 703, although the COG numbers are not used when referring to stations. See below for the numbers assigned to the participating COG jurisdictions.
Another part of the numbering system is the apparatus type in plain language. The primary engine from Station 3 is known as Engine 703, the second engine is known as Engine 703B (bravo). Other apparatus follows suit, so there is Aerial Tower 703, Rescue Squad 703, Ambulance 703, etc.
The various type of apparatus designations used in Montgomery County include:
- Paramedic Engine – when the unit is staffed with an ALS provider
- Rescue Squad
- Aerial Tower (or just Tower) – for units with a bucket
- Truck – for straight or tractor-drawn ladder trucks
- Medic (ALS units)
- Engine Tanker – for engines with large water tanks
- Rescue Engine – for engines equipped for heavy rescue
- Boat and Air Boat
- Strike Team – includes boats, air boats, boat support units and personnel for water rescues
- MAB – mobile ambulance bus
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