The best way to control fires is to depend solely on the fire helicopters. They don't normally get dispatched until your fire trucks have already made an attempt to reach the fire and get stuck in traffic. This can be overcome by simply demolishing all of your fire truck garages, so that the helicopters get called first.
- Demolish all of your small fire stations
- Plop a large fire station
- Add the dispatch tower
- Add as many helicopter pads as you can afford. (Note: The helicoper pads don't unlock until you have an airport somewhere in the region.)
- Add all the Fire Marshall Offices you can afford.
- Demolish the one fire truck garage that is attached to the large fire station
- Once you've unlocked the Hazmat Fire trucks, you can go ahead and add those in as well. They do not keep the helicopters from dispatching to regular fires.
Note: Since the helicopters are expensive, I would advise to start with one helicopter and slowly expand as needed. The hazmat garages can be omitted if you don't mind having Industrial buildings occasionally blow up. Some players prefer to save on cost and just let the hazmat fires destroy a building occasionally.
Bug Warning: Occasionally, the fire helicopters will stop taking off to put out fires. I find that demolishing and rebuilding the helicopter pad usually fixes it.
Education and Fires: As with many other problems in SimCity, having a good education system will help prevent fires from occurring in the first place.