Firefighting has a rich history in the United States, dating back to colonial times. Since then, fire departments have become crucial to modern society, providing critical emergency services to communities nationwide. This blog article will examine the eight oldest fire departments in the US and explore their fascinating histories.
From humble beginnings as volunteer bucket brigades to today’s modern, technologically advanced departments, these fire departments have played a vital role in protecting their communities and preserving the nation’s heritage. Join us on this journey through time as we delve into the fascinating stories behind some of America’s most historic fire departments.
8. The Bedford Fire Department
Year Started: 1888
Chief (as of April 2023): Andrew Klein
Main Address: 315 Bedford Avenue Bedford, VA 24523
photo source: Bedford Fire Department
The Bedford Fire Department has a long and proud history of serving the community of Bedford, Virginia. Established in 1888, the department has provided critical fire and emergency services for over 130 years. Today, the department is led by Chief Andrew Klein and operates from 14 stations throughout the area.
From its humble beginnings as a small volunteer organization, the Bedford Fire Department has grown to become a modern and well-equipped department staffed by dedicated professionals committed to ensuring their community’s safety and well-being.
Whether responding to a house fire or providing assistance during a natural disaster, the members of the Bedford Fire Department are always ready to answer the call of duty and provide the highest level of service to those in need.
Did You Know?
The Bedford Fire Department played a significant role in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.
7. Lancaster City Bureau of Fire
Year Started: 1882
Chief (as of April 2023): Todd Hutchinson
Main Address: 333 E King St, Lancaster, PA 17602-2902
photo source: Lancaster Online
The Lancaster City Bureau of Fire has served the Lancaster community since 1882. Under the leadership of Chief Todd Hutchinson, the department operates from 6 stations throughout the city. Over the course of its long history, the Lancaster City Bureau of Fire has played an integral role in protecting the city and its residents from the devastating effects of fire and other emergencies.
In 1957, the Lancaster City Bureau of Fire became the first fire department in Pennsylvania to use a snorkel truck, a specialized firefighting vehicle equipped with an aerial platform extending up to 100 feet. Today, the Lancaster City Bureau of Fire uses modern, state-of-the-art equipment to provide its community with the highest level of service.
Did You Know?
The snorkel truck was a game-changer for the department, allowing firefighters to reach higher floors of buildings and attack fires from new angles.
6. Philadelphia Fire Department
Year Started: 1871
Chief (as of April 2023): Adam Thiel
Main Address: 240 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, PA 19123
photo source: Mural Arts Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Fire Department is one of the oldest and most storied fire departments in the United States, dating back to its founding in 1871.
Before the establishment of the department, firefighting in Philadelphia was handled by volunteer companies, many of which were affiliated with political or social organizations. However, the city was growing rapidly, and the existing firefighting system was inadequate to meet the needs of its citizens.
To address this challenge, the Philadelphia Fire Department was created as a fully professional, paid department with a mandate to provide fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services to the city’s residents.
In its early years, the department faced significant challenges, including limited resources, outdated equipment, and a lack of training for its firefighters. However, over time, the department grew in size and stature, becoming a model for other fire departments nationwide.
Did You Know?
The department’s first fireboat, the Edwin S. Stuart, was commissioned in 1890 and served until 1954. The Stuart was a steam-powered vessel that could pump up to 4,000 gallons of water per minute, making it a valuable asset in fighting fires along the city’s waterfront.
5. Providence Fire Department
Year Started: 1854
Chief (as of April 2023): Derek Silva
Main Address: 325 Washington St, Providence, RI 02903
photo source: City of Providence
The Providence Fire Department has been serving the people of Providence, Rhode Island, since its founding in 1854. At the time of its establishment, the city was rapidly growing and faced significant challenges in terms of fire safety.
Before the creation of the department, firefighting in Providence was handled by volunteer companies, but these organizations were often poorly trained and equipped to deal with large-scale fires.
To address this problem, the Providence Fire Department was created as a fully professional, paid department with a mandate to provide fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services to the city’s residents. Since then, the department has played a critical role in protecting Providence’s people and property from the ravages of fire.
Did You Know?
The department’s first fire chief was Charles H. Smith, who served from 1854 to 1868. Smith was a pioneer in the field of firefighting, introducing new techniques and equipment to the department that helped to make it one of the most effective in the region.
4. Portsmouth Fire Department
Year Started: 1830
Chief (as of April 2023): Nestor P. Mangubat
Main Address: 311 County Street, Suite 200. Portsmouth, VA 23704
photo source: WAVY.com
The Portsmouth Fire Department has been serving the city of Portsmouth in Virginia since its establishment in 1830. Back then, Portsmouth was a bustling port city with poor fire safety measures, addressed by creating a fully professional, paid fire department. The department has provided community fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services ever since.
Today, the Portsmouth Fire Department has 8 fire stations spread throughout the city and is led by Fire Chief Jim Hoffler. It employs over 200 personnel, including firefighters, paramedics, and administrative staff, dedicated to providing the highest quality service to the community.
Did You Know?
The department also pioneered Virginia, becoming the first to use motorized fire apparatus in 1897, replacing its horse-drawn equipment with a steam-powered pumper.
3. Mount Holly Fire Department
Year Started: 1752
Chief (as of April 2023): Ryan Baker
Main Address: James Buillard, 17 Pine St, Mt Holly, NJ 08060
photo source: Firefighting Wiki
The Mount Holly Fire Department has a long and storied history, dating back to its establishment in 1752. Founded in what was then the small colonial town of Mount Holly, New Jersey, the department has grown and evolved over the centuries to become a modern, full-service fire department.
The department’s long history has seen it face many challenges, from the devastating fires that swept through Mount Holly in the 19th century to the modern-day threats of terrorism and natural disasters. Throughout it all, the Mount Holly Fire Department has remained steadfast in its commitment to protecting the lives and property of the town’s residents.
Today, the Mount Holly Fire Department is led by Fire Chief Ryan Baker and operates from 3 fire stations throughout the town. With a dedicated team of firefighters, paramedics, and support staff, the department provides a wide range of services to the community, including fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical care.
Did You Know?
The department has a strong tradition of volunteerism, with many of its members dedicating countless hours of their time and expertise to serve the community.
2. Boston Fire Department
Year Started: 1678
Chief (as of April 2023): Joseph Minehan
Main Address: 115 Southampton Street. Boston, MA 02118
photo source: Boston Magazine
The Boston Fire Department is among the oldest and most respected fire departments in the United States. Founded in 1678, the department has a rich history of service to Boston and its residents.
The department has also played a critical role in responding to numerous other disasters and emergencies, including the September 11th attacks in New York City and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
In addition to its firefighting and emergency response duties, the Boston Fire Department is dedicated to public education and outreach. The department’s Fire Prevention Division offers a wide range of programs and services designed to promote fire safety and prevent fires from occurring in the first place.
Did You Know?
The Boston Fire Department was the first department in the country to establish a training academy for its firefighters. The academy was founded in 1911 and has since become a nationwide model for fire service training programs.
1. Fire Department of New York City
Year Started: Originally 1648
Chief (as of April 2023): John J. Hodgens
Main Address: 61 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10020
photo source: Peakpx
The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) is the oldest fire department in the United States. It was founded in 1648 as a volunteer firefighting organization known as the New Amsterdam Volunteer Fire Department.
Over the years, the department has evolved into a professional organization with a rich history and excellent reputation.
In addition to firefighting, the FDNY is responsible for various other duties, including emergency medical services, hazardous materials response, and technical rescue operations. The department is known for its advanced training programs and state-of-the-art equipment, which help ensure that the men and women of the FDNY are always prepared to respond to any emergency that arises in the city.
Did You Know?
The department is responsible for protecting over 8.5 million people who live and work in New York City.