Fire police are a fire brigade resource and answer to the officer in charge (OIC) of the fire brigade in attendance. However, special fire police officers in Pennsylvania, USA,

are under the direction of the state or local police. Where no other fire brigade resources are present, fire police will usually assist police under the direction of the police's OIC or, depending on local regulations, act autonomously.

While the exact role of fire police may vary between brigades and between countries, the general themes are constant throughout:

Traffic control at emergency scenes
Traffic control consists of managing the flow of vehicles around or through the immediate vicinity of an emergency. This may entail road closures, diversions, full 'points' control at intersections, or '1-way-shunts', in which the road is reduced to one lane and its direction is alternated in a controlled fashion.

Scene safety
Fire police assist in ensuring that the scene of an incident remains safe for firefighters, emergency service workers, and members of the public working in its vicinity.

Crowd control and liaison
Residents, owners, occupants, relatives, transients, spectators, and the media are among those who may approach the scene of an incident, and fire police prevent them from being harmed or hampering the work of emergency services personnel working at the scene. Since fire police are often the public's first point of contact with the fire department, they must be skilled in public relations.

Scene security
Fire police may be asked to provide a scene guard in order to prevent looting or theft and monitor unattended fire brigade equipment.

Police assistance
Fire police are often called upon by police and other law enforcement agencies to provide additional manpower. Many of the tasks listed above also fall within the area of responsibility of the police, but fire police when on the scene may allow the police to concentrate on other more specific areas of expertise.

Fire police may provide a logistics resource - vehicle movements, communications or similar. This would particularly be the case at a scene controlled by the fire brigade but they may be called upon by other services.

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