A Night Spent with the Syracuse Fire Department

Squad 1 is one of Syracue Fire Department’s most versatile crews. Squad can respond to any emergency in the city, regardless of area. At a house fire, its job is to cut a 4-foot-by-4-foot hole in the roof to provide an escape for fire, smoke and heat. It’s also responsible for Ladder 1, the fire engine equipped with a 135-foot-long ladder that can scale a building more than six stories tall.

The squad can also be called upon to extricate people from crashed cars.

When not saving lives, the crew can find itself doing the unusual. Have a ring on your finger you need cut off? Squad has you covered.

Handcuffed to your bedpost in a compromised position? Squad has handled it before and will again. No questions asked.

Squad 1 is one of five companies housed at Fire Station 1 which recently allowed a syracuse.com reporter and photographer to observe a 14-hour overnight shift. Life at the station at 900 S. State St. bounced between schoolyard pranks and a mad rush to save lives.

The calls that night ranged from drug overdoses to a car crash, but no fires. That’s becoming the norm for a department that as of Nov. 12 handled nearly 21,000 calls, of which only 161 were fires.

When Syracuse Fire Capt. Karl Field joined the department in 1994, 80 firefighters worked each shift to cover the nearly 17,000 calls they handled that year. Now, only 65 firefighters are on duty at a time, but their workload is higher than ever.

For a recap of the shift — from a confirmed car accident, drug overdoses and medical calls — view syracuse.com

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