The D.C. Fire Department and the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad have reached what both sides call a "gentleman's agreement" in settling a 12-year dispute about the suburban unit's practice of responding to emergency calls in upper Northwest Washington.

In a three-hour session Wednesday moderated by City Administrator Thomas Downs, the two sides agreed that the B-CC squad will respond to calls from Northwest residents but will notify the fire department about every run it makes into the city. Under the agreement, the fire department's rescue personnel will then help out with the more serious calls, such as heart attacks.

The agreement makes permanent the arrangement that has been in place for several years, and it represents a victory for the B-CC squad, according to squad officials.

"It's a compromise," said D.C. fire department Battalion Chief Michael Tippett, a spokesman for the department. "It fills the needs of everyone. . . . The primary concern on both sides is patient care."

B-CC Rescue Squad Chief David Dwyer said one reason the squad wants to continue responding to calls in the city is that it receives no government financial support but relies on private donations, including about $100,000 a year from D.C. residents.