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What to include in a fire department incident report template

Two firefighters in full equipment review a fire incident report on a tablet computer.

Thorough and accurate fire incident report templates ensure reliable future reference, investigation and training

According to the FBI, there were 36,274 recorded cases of arson in the United States in 2022. Those resulting in a conviction relied on strong legal cases built on defensible evidence. And while it might not be what first responders initially envisioned when they signed up for a career in fire safety, well-written fire department incident reports matter. They can mean the difference between justice being served and a lethal crime going unprosecuted.

Whether it’s to enable investigation, inform life-saving research or support the education of the next generation of firefighters, a well-designed report template is an investment that can pay dividends for decades.

But record-keeping is a unique discipline, and not always easily found among those who choose to risk their lives saving others. To that end, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to fire department incident report templates. We’ll explore why they exist, what they need to include and how you can make the right decisions when creating your own.

Ready to dig deeper? Check out The complete guide to fire reporting systems.

Understanding the value of fire department incident reports

It’s not always apparent to first responders just how critical a well-written incident report can be. In an article for, Battalion Chief Vince Bettinazzi of Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Fire Department explains, “I constantly hear people dismiss report-writing, bemoaning that the company or chief officer is the only one reading the report before it is filed away forever.”

It’s understandable, given how far separated frontline firefighters can be from downstream processes, but as Bettinazi explains, attention to detail matters. “Incident reports are often requested and read by lawyers, media members, insurance adjusters, law enforcement personnel, independent investigators, local and state representatives and even members of the public,” he explains. “The more informative and complete the incident report, the more it can assist and guide your organization into validating decisions.”

The most valuable uses of fire incident reports include:

Legal investigation support

When it comes to criminal investigations, details make all the difference. Incident reports serve as a key juncture in the judicial process, where critical information surrounding time, place, cause, damages and more can be captured at their most recent and relevant. Physical evidence and witness statements often become the building blocks of subsequent criminal cases and/or process iterations.

Insurance processing

Beyond the legal system, fire incident reports play a critical role in ensuring victims of fire incidents receive what they’re owed by insurance companies. They provide an authoritative account of the incident, including details on the extent of damage and potential causes, all of which are critical details in determining liability and entitlement for the insured.

Training and safety

A well-written report can be an invaluable asset to educators. By reviewing real-life scenarios, firefighters and the professionals who train them can analyze actual events to identify trends and patterns that could point to flaws in existing procedures. Changes resulting from these insights ensure that fire departments are continually evolving and improving. And it’s not just professionals who benefit. Insights gained from these reports can inform fire prevention education for the public through targeted educational campaigns and even safety standards reform.

Fire department incident report template requirements

The storage and transmission of sensitive information is always a balance between utility and concision. Too much detail and you end up wasting valuable time. Too little and assets end up being of little consequence. While every report template should open with high-level details that situate the incident in time and space, the details that follow are critical. What follows is a suggested list of fields to include in your fire department incident report template:

Incident information

  • Incident number (should be a unique numerical identifier)

  • Date and time of the incident

  • Location of the incident (leave room for specifics like apartment number, house location, etc…)

  • Type of incident (offer option list including fire, medical emergency, rescue, hazardous material response, etc…)

Reporting unit/station information:

  • Name and number of the fire station or unit

  • Name of the officer in charge

Involved parties' information:

  • Names and contact information of property owners, witnesses and involved individuals

  • Injuries or fatalities, if any

Incident description and timeline

  • Detailed narrative of the incident

  • Sequence of events

  • Weather conditions, if relevant

Response and actions taken

  • Description of the fire department's response

  • Equipment and resources used

  • Actions taken by responding personnel

Casualties and damages

  • Details of any casualties (injuries or fatalities)

  • Estimate of property damage

Investigation findings (if applicable)

  • Initial assessment of the cause of the incident

  • Any relevant findings from an initial investigation

Photos and diagrams (if applicable)

  • Photographs of the incident scene

  • Diagrams showing the layout of the incident scene

  • Video recordings from drones, fleet cameras, body-worn cameras, or other video evidence

Resource usage

  • List of all fire department resources used (personnel, vehicles, equipment)

Witness statements

  • Statements from witnesses or involved parties, if collected

Follow-up actions and recommendations

  • Any required follow-up actions

  • Recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future

Signatures and approval

  • Signature of the officer in charge

  • Approval from higher authorities, if required

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In a profession where details can mean the difference between justice served and missed opportunities, the importance of precise and comprehensive reporting cannot be overstated. This is where Axon's integrated platform for fire response and investigation comes into play.

With Axon, firefighters and law enforcement professionals can capture crucial footage, streamline investigative processes and elevate training methods. Click here to learn more about the Axon platform’s unique capabilities and take the first step toward a more efficient, informed and effective fire department.