If you encounter a situation to call the fire department(fire brigade) during your stay in Japan, please calmly dial 119. Then, the operator of the fire department which response to you as "Fire or ambulance?"
Not like in European nations, Japan has two major emergency numbers. 110 for police(you will be connecting to the local prefectural police headquarter and 119 for fire or ambulance connecting to local municipal fire department. Fire department is in charge for dispatching ambulances from their branches.
Most of the cities have their own fire departments but municipalities in Tokyo metropolis except Inagi city are under Tokyo Fire Department of Tokyo metropolitan government. Tokyo Fire Department has the most number of staffs in the world, much more than FDNY of New York.
Japanese fire fighters and fire engines are not dispatched just for extinguishing fires. One of the main activities are checking the buildings and venues if the buildings and venues are fitting the regulations given by the fire departments as like checking the fire extinguishers and emergency exits. Fire especially breakouts in winter period due to dry air and use of kerosene heaters, therefore small cars with large speakers are running on the streets announcing to watch out the fires.
Then, the most toughest rescue for Japan fire fighters starts when big earthquakes hit the nation. Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka fire departments are the three major fire departments in Japan with state of art equipments and vehicles. These fire fighters and fire engines rush to place to search and rescue the survivors.
On the evening of 11 March 2011, fire engines of Osaka municipal fire department rushed to Fukushima where is more than 800 km away, when the earthquake and tsunamis hit the region. Osaka municipal fire department's rescue squad is considered the best rescue squad in Japan, may be on Earth.