Oldest Operating Department

January 27th, 1678
Boston, MA
Boston Fire Department

First paid (call) municipal fire department organized. Thomas Atkins was the first Fire Chief. The department had one engine house. By 1715 they 6 engine companies. The present Boston Fire Department was organized in 1837. This makes Boston THE OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY operating fire department in the United States.

July 11th, 1752
Mount Holly, NJ
Relief Fire Co.1

The Relief Fire Company No. 1 IS THE OLDEST CONTINUOUSLY SERVING VOLUNTEER company in the United States. Originally formed on July 11, 1752 as “Britannia” they later changed their name so the department would have a more patriotic name. Their original firehouse, built in 1752, sits next to the current firehouse built in 1895.

September 13th, 1756
Portsmouth, NH
Portsmouth Fire Company

With the hiring of 12 fire officers in 1756 and the purchasing of various fire equipment the Fire Companies in Portsmouth, NH were born. A “fire injin” was purchase in 1744 at the cost of 20 pounds sterling but the town was un-organized until 1756.

March 8th, 1764
Haddonfield, NJ
Haddon Fire Company 1

On March 8, 26 men – being among the chief owners property and heads of families in the village – met in the Friends Meeting House (then located on what is now Haddon Avenue) to form the Friendship Fire Company of Haddonfield. Each member was required to furnish two leathern fire buckets; the company supplied six ladders and three fire hooks. There are the 2nd oldest continuously operating volunteer fire department in the United States.

January 27th, 1775
Darby, PA
Darby Fire Co.1

The Darby Fire Company was established on January 27, 1775 by a group of villagers concerned for the well being of proper fire protection for their community. They are the second oldest in the state of Pennsylvania.

January 1st, 1784
Carlisle, PA
Union Fire Company 1

The Union Fire Company boasts a proud history of over 215 years. The Company was organized in 1789 and later became incorporated by a special act of Pennsylvania legislature in 1840. It still operates today under the same name and charter as when the Company was established.

May 20th, 1789
Winchester, VA
Charlie Rouss Fire Company

March 19th, 1794
Hudson, NY
City of Hudson Fire Department

It is the oldest active all volunteer fire dept in New York State organized March 19th, 1794.

January 1st, 1804
Bedford, PA
Bedford Fire Department

The Bedford Fire Department was established in 1804 and is still going strong. They celebrated their 200th anniversary in 2004. They are an all volunteer department that runs nearly 250 calls yearly.

June 8th, 1812
Cherry Valley, NY
Cherry Valley Fire Department

Cherry Valley’s fire fighting history began simply with buckets being used by villagers to put out fires. After the Village of Cherry Valley was incorporated, five trustees were elected. Two of the trustees were appointed Fire Wardens and thus began organized fire prevention in Cherry Valley.

January 1st, 1813
Rochester, NH
Rochester Fire Department

January 1st, 1814
Medford, NJ
Union Fire Company 1

Originally known as Read’s Mill, the Union Fire Company was established and based on fire companies established in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin.

January 1st, 1818
Frederick County, MD
Independent Hose Company 1

The Independent Hose Company is Frederick County Maryland’s Fire & Rescue Station #1. They are Maryland’s oldest volunteer Fire Company in continuous operation having been instituted in 1818. They operate out of the oldest operating fire station in the country.

December 16th, 1824
Buffalo, NY
Buffalo Fire Department

The first regular fire company was organized in Buffalo on the 16th of December, 1824. The Buffalo Fire Department had its origins from the old volunteer fire companies with names like Pioneer, Neptune, Fillmore, Clinton, Rescue, Citizen’s, Defiance, Eagle, Taylor and many others that had protected the emerging city. As the demand for fire protection increased, the increase of population, the department was converted to a paid career department on July 1, 1880.

May 8th, 1830
Derby, CT
Hotchkiss Hose Company 1

July 1st, 1830
Madison, IN
Fair Play Fire Company 1

In the summer of 1830, the first fire company in Madison was organized. It was named United Volunteer Fire Company and met in a one rooms frame building on what is currently the southwest corner of Main and Walnut St. On February 6, 1835 the town board voted to approve the formation of a paid fire department. However, this was short lived and within 10 month it was canceled and the job of fire protection of the city was returned to the volunteers.

January 1st, 1831
Portland, ME
Portland Fire Department

Fire protection started in Portland back in 1768 with the appointment of seven “Fire Wards.” These men had Police powers and had the authority to order citizens to help at Fire scenes. As the city grew so did the Fires, and the Fire Department. In 1787 Portland’s first organized Fire Company was formed and was named the “Neptune”. More companies followed: “Vigilant” in 1794, “Cataract”, “Portland”, “Extinguisher”, and later the “Alert”. Hand Engines came into service starting with the “Deluge” in 1827 and the “Hydraulion” and “Niagra” in 1830. And in 1827 the “Washington Hook and Ladder” became the City’s first Ladder Company

December 8th, 1835
Newton, NJ
Newton Fire Department

Born out of necessity, the Newton Fire Department came to fruition after a devastating fire that destroyed John Trusdell’s chair factory.

January 22nd, 1846
Madison, IN
Washington Fire Company 2

Founded January 22, 1846, Washington Fire Co. # 2 operates out of the oldest operating fire station in the country as well as the second in Indiana. The station was built in 1848.

July 14th, 1847
Yantic, CT
Yantic Fire Engine Company 1

Established by Act of Connecticut General Assembly on July 14th, 1847 and has never closed for one day since.

May 23rd, 1850
Madison, IN
Western Fire Company 3

The Western Fire Company #3 was founded May 23, 1850 when a group of citizens petitioned the city council for a fire company in the west end of Madison. In August of 1850, the council approved funding to construct a fire house in the 700 block of West Main Street. The original fire house was constructed in front of what is now Lydia Middleton Elementary School. In 1923 the company relocated to its present location at 815 West Main Street. The fire company motto is “We Conquer To Save.”

December 27th, 1850
Honolulu, HI
Honolulu Fire Department

The Honolulu Fire Department was founded on December 27, 1850 by Kamehameha III and Alexander Cartwright. The Honolulu Fire Department serves and protects the entire island of O’ahu, covering over 600 square miles.

January 1st, 1851
Marysville, CA
Marysville Fire Department

The 2nd oldest fire department West of the Mississippi River.

April 1st, 1853
Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Fire Department

Organized April 1st, 1853, the Cincinnati Fire Department also placed into service the 1st functional steam fire engine called the “Uncle Joe Ross”.

July 1st, 1853
Grass Valley, CA
Grass Valley Fire Department

The Grass Valley Fire Department was first organized in 1853 with the establishment of the Grass Valley Hook and Ladder Company. It is the third oldest active fire department West of the Mississippi River.

January 27th, 1854
San Jose, CA
San Jose Fire Department

Originally named El Pueblo of San Jose (The Town of San Jose) and protected by volunteers and bucket brigades starting in 1777, it would not be until 1854 when the official San Jose Fire Department started.

May 20th, 1855
Peabody, MA
Peabody Fire Department

Originally known as South Danvers and started in 1855, the town changed its name in 1868 to Peabody after philanthropist George Peabody. Peabody’s headquarters station was built in 1873 making it the 5th oldest continuously operating firehouse in the United States.

February 23rd, 1856
Saugerties, NY
Saugerties Fire Department

The Saugerties Fire Department is comprised of the R.A. Snyder Hose Co. No. 1, the Washington Hook and Ladder Co., the C.A. Lynch Hose Co. No. 2, & the Exempt Fireman’s Assn. The department operates 2 engines, 1 ladder, & 1 Rescue out of 2 stations.

September 14th, 1857
St. Louis MO
St. Louis Fire Department

On September 14, 1857, the paid fire department started operations with H. Clay Sexton as the fire chief. Through the years the fire department continued to grow and by 1910 they had 51 horse-drawn steam engine companies, 17 hook and ladder companies, 11 district chiefs, a deputy chief, master mechanic, and a fire chief. On March 25, 1927, the fire horses made their final run, thus closing a colorful era in the fire department, as many of these brave animals had given their lives in the line of duty.

December 29th, 1857
Mechanicsburg, PA
Washington Fire Company

In 1856 Mechanicsburg Gas and Water Company put into service a new pumping station. For the first time the borough had a water system sufficient to support organized fire protection in Mechanicsburg. Though the borough had a fire engine it lacked the organization to use it effectively The borough fathers purchased a new pumper to complement the improved water supply. It arrived in the borough on December 29, 1857. That evening the Washington Fire Company was organized.

May 27th, 1858
Louisville, KY
Louisville Fire Department

On the evening of May 27, 1858, the General Council organized the Steam Engine Fire Department of Louisville, to be effective June 1, 1858. The Division of Fire consisted of three fire stations. Louisville’s First Fire chief ( A. Y. Johnson) with the aid of 65 men, 23 horses and 5 newly purchased steam engines, provided fire protection for the 70,000 inhabitants of the city.

August 2nd, 1858
Chicago, IL
Chicago Fire Department

In 1833, Chicago was protected by the fire company “Washington Volunteers”. The first paid fire department was organized on August 2, 1858. Steam engines and a fire-alarm telegraph system were then purchased for the first time. The hose carts were at first drawn by men running at top speed, but the engines were drawn by horses..

October 10th, 1858
Richmond, VA
Richmond Fire Department

The paid fire department started with 4 engine and 2 truck companies.

February 15th, 1859
Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Fire Department

On February 15, 1859, the Baltimore City Fire Department was activated for service with four companies. They were Engine Co.1, formerly Howard Fire Company, Engine Co.2, formerly Washington Hose Company, Engine Co.3, formerly Vigilant Fire Company and Hook and Ladder Co.1, formerly Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company. The first fire was recorded on February 23rd at 12:15am for a large fire in a 3 story building. In May of 1859 3 additional companies were added. They were Engine Co.5, formerly Columbian Fire Company, Engine Co.4, formerly Monumental Hose Company and Deluge Co.6 formerly Independent Hose Company. In July of 1859 a Gamewell Alarm System was added to the city and in September of 1859 the final two companies by ordinance were added. They were Hook and Ladder Co.2, moving in with Engine Co.1 and Engine Co.7 in a temporary home and in 1860 receiving a permanent station.

June 9th, 1859
Niles, MI
Niles Fire Department

On June 9th 1859, the citizens of Niles, MI formed an official fire department. The department started with nearly 200 men. In 1923, they purchased their first motorized fire engine and in 1950 they purchased their first aerial ladder was added.

July 1st, 1860
Detroit, MI
Detroit Fire Department

In l860, the city fathers hastily hired Detroit’s first paid fire fighters, an engineer, five hosemen, two drivers and a foreman to operate the first steam fire engine. The engine cost the city $3,150 and was delivered from the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company of Manchester, N.H.

July 23rd, 1860
Nashville, TN
Nashville Fire Department

In May of 1807, the city formed it’s first volunteer fire fighting unit. The Nashville Fire Department was organized as a paid department on July 24, 1860, with John S. Dashiell as its first chief. The first horse drawn steam fire engine was called the “Hamilton,” named after Mr. J. M. Hamilton, who was a prominent hardware man of the time. Two other horse drawn engines, the “Eclipse”, and the “Deluge” were also in service. In 1861, a hook and ladder company was added to Nashville’s growing fire department.

June 17th, 1863
Carson City, NV
Warren Engine Company 1

Warren Engine Co.1 was organized on June 17, 1863, in Carson City, then a part of Utah Territory.

October 25th, 1864
Dayton, OH
Dayton Fire Department

March 3rd, 1865
St. Joseph, MO
St. Joseph Fire Department

The St. Joseph Fire Department was established in 1865 when the community passed a bond to purchase the city’s first steam powered fire pump. The pump was named the “Blacksnake”. Most fire equipment was given personalized names in this time period. The “Blacksnake Company” was staffed by former members of the Union Army and a team of horses pulled it.

December 3rd, 1866
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Fire Department

Changing from a volunteer system that lasted for 16 years, San Francisco became paid in 1866. The worst fire and disaster to strike the city occurred in 1906 during the San Francisco Earthquake.

June 11th, 1867
Valparaiso, IN
Valparaiso Fire Department

September 2nd, 1869
Camden, NJ
Camden Fire Department

Despite opposition, on September 2, 1869 City Council enacted a municipal ordinance creating a paid fire department. It provided for the annual appointment of five Fire Commissioners, one Chief Marshal (Chief of Department) and two Assistant Marshals. Several volunteer companies had been established since 1864 with the creation of Independence Fire Company 1.

September 23rd, 1871
District of Columbia, Washington DC
District of Columbia Fire Department

On this date the DCFD became paid and changed it’s name from the Washington City Fire Department when it was part paid since nt.

July 1st, 1872
Memphis, TN
Memphis Fire Department

The Independent Fire Company 1 was established in 1846 followed by Eagle Fire Company 2 in 1847. Liberty Number 3 was soon to follow in 1849. In 1872 thing changed dramatically. The Chief Engineer, Assistant Engineer, Fire Captains, four Fire Steamer Engineers, and thirty-two firemen, divided in four engine companies and one hook and ladder company. Each man on the department received $3.00 a day.

March 17th, 1873
Madison, IN
Walnut Street Fire Company 4

In January of 1873, the Butz Brewery at the far north end of Walnut Street burned to the ground. Residents of north Walnut became concerned about fire protection in their area of the town and, at a meeting held on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1873, founded Walnut Street Fire Company # 4. The minutes of that organizational meeting have been preserved and are kept in a fire-proof safe at the company’s current fire station at Walnut and Third Streets.

January 1st, 1874
New Braunfels, TX
New Braunfels Fire Department

New Braunfels started with a single bay shed and a 2-wheeled hook and ladder apparatus..

July 3rd, 1878
Wabasha, MN
Wabasha Fire Department

January 1st, 1882
Charleston, SC
Charleston Fire Department

Started January 1st 1882 as a result of a want for better fire protection from the Volunteer System. The Board of Firemasters and the City of Charleston purchased the equipment from a majority of the volunteer houses and manned them as paid. This went on until 1886 when the Charleston Earthquake destroyed many of the stations and new ones had to be built.

January 1st, 1880
St. Charles, MO
St. Charles Fire Department

In 1836, the City of St. Charles began taxing its citizens for the purpose of purchasing a fire engine and firefighting buckets. By 1853, each of the city wards had been mandated to keep at least two side ladders and two roof ladders on hand for fire protection purposes. In answer to the need for more organized fire protection, the Union Fire Company was formed in 1861. It was not until 1880 that the first paid Firefighters were established.

January 18th, 1882
El Paso, TX
El Paso Fire Department

On January 18th, 1882 El Paso Fire Company No. 1 was organized. Another meeting was held on August 22nd, 1882 and El Paso Hose Company No. 1 was formed and officers elected. The first test for the new fire department occurred on November 11th, 1882 when two one-story frame lodging houses were destroyed by fire.

January 1st, 1884
Dubuque, IA
Dubuque Fire Department

April 1st, 1885
Dunmore, PA
Independent Hose Company 1

January 29th, 1890
Ashland, VA
Ashland Fire Department

The fire company has been serving the community of Ashland as well as Hanover County continuously from 1890. For over 120 years the AVFC has remained an all volunteer fire company. Currently AVFC is known as Company 1 for Hanover Fire-EMS, a combination department. The AVFC boasts 100% volunteer service 24/7, 365 days a year.

January 1st, 1891
Rome, NY
Rome Fire Department

The paid department consisted of a new Chief, four drivers, two stokers, and two engineers. The first paid firefighters worked six straight 24 hour shifts, going home only for meals and getting the 7th day off. The six volunteer companies were still in existence.

July 29th, 1895
Mt. Holly Springs, PA
Citizens Fire Company 1

January 1st, 1896
Yonkers, NY
Yonkers Fire Department

January 1st, 1899
State College, PA
Alpha Fire Company
Originally formed as the Union Fire Company, the name was changed to Alpha in 1900. The Alpha Fire Company provides fire and rescue services for the Borough of State College, College Township, Ferguson Township, Patton Township, and The Pennsylvania State University.

April 6th, 1902
Chesterton, IN
Chesterton Fire Department

After a fire burned 11 businesses in the downtown, the Chesterton Fire Department was formed. The town board purchased a hand pump fire engine for $980. In 1903, a new town hall was built in the downtown area and the ground floor was used exclusively for the fire department. The first Fire Chief was John Graessle.

January 1st, 1903
Glens Falls, NY
GlensFalls Fire Department

Ichabod Merrit and Jacob Hicks were elected town Firemen in 1772, just 9 years after the town was established. The first attempt at an organized fire department occurred in 1835. It was not until 1842 when the first successful volunteer company was established.

September 1st, 1904
Berkeley, CA
Berkeley Fire Department

After a disastrous fire in the Berkeley City Hall a paid fire department was organized.

January 1st, 1909
Mason City, IA
Mason City Fire Department

No information at this time.

June 1st, 1916
Austin, TX
Austin Fire Department

Voters approved to change to a fully paid fire department in May, which began operations in June 1916 with 27 men and Clarence Woodward as Fire Chief. On July 23, 1916, the new department experienced its first major fire in the Kreisle Building. Four firefighters were seriously injured. Firefighter James T. Glass had his spine crushed. He lay paralyzed at Brackenridge Hospital until his death more than one year later. His badge number was “13″ and that number was permanently retired in his memory.

January 1st, 1922
Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix Fire Department

After thirty four years of volunteer Fire Companies, the PFD finally went paid in 1922.

5 Responses to “Oldest Operating Department”

  • Barbara Tobery- hack:

    trying desperately to find old photos. Early 60′s of “the guys” sitting outsie the Old Independent Hose Co. On Church St. Waiting for the big one. Would appreciate any help in locating the names and photos of the members in the late 50′s earlt 60′s . Thanking you in advance, Barbara

    • admin:

      What city or town are we talking about?

      Grant Mishoe, Editor-in-Chief

      • Chip Jewell:


        We have talked in the past, I will be in Charleston next week and plan to stop by the musuem, please feel free to email me at the cjecc171@comcast.net so we can get together. By the way, I have the FIRE HISTORY article in the April FIREHOUSE Magazine on the Frederick companies around 1860.

        Thanks, CHIP JEWELL

    • Chip Jewell:


      With a name like Tobery, we must be related, as my grandmother was a Tobery, I have written 2 books on the Frederick MD fire service history and can most likely help you. In fact, 2 weeks ago, we opened the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum just down from the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg with many pictures from early Independents. Please feel free to email me direct at cjecc171@comcast.net and I will be glad to help.

      Thanks CHIP JEWELL

  • Gary Crawford:

    Do you have a list starting with the oldest and continuous operating Fire STATIONS??
    I would like to see where the Chicago (1904) Water Station ranks
    I understand – as per your site – that the oldest continuously operating Fire Station is in Madison IN.

    May 28 2012

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