The need for the City of Fort Lauderdale's first fire
department became apparent in 1912 as the result of a
disastrous fire in the City's downtown district that destroyed
nearly everything between Wall Street and New River on
both sides of Brickell Avenue (now SW 1st Avenue). The
town had just been incorporated in 1911 and following
the fire the City Council voted to purchase its first
fire equipment. About the same time, the City also formed
its first volunteer fire department. The department did
not have a permanent home until 1913, when the first fire
station was built at Andrews Avenue and SW 2nd Street.
The first paid fire chief started in 1917 at a salary
of $25 per month.
From these humble beginnings, the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue
Department has grown into an organization of more than
400 individuals working from 13
stations located strategically throughout the City.
The department uses the most modern fire-rescue equipment
and techniques to deliver fire and emergency medical services
to the residents and visitors of Fort Lauderdale.
Since 1912, there have been many changes in personnel,
equipment, techniques and station locations. Some of the
highlights include (stations are referenced using their
current/modern number designations):
1920s - The City's
first paid firefighter starts working at a salary of $150
per month for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The department's
first ladder truck is purchased. The original Station
3 is built in 1925, followed by Station
8 in 1927.
1930s - Fort Lauderdale
is given an honorable mention in fire prevention from
the National Board of Fire Underwriters.
1940s - By 1940,
there are 19 firefighters with seven vehicles serving
18,000 full-time residents and a nearly equal number of
"snowbirds." The "Kelly Day" system
is officially adopted in 1947, reducing the workweek from
84 to 72 hours. Station
2, originally opened in 1913, moves from City Hall
to 301 N. Andrews Avenue in 1948.
1950s - With the
establishment of the three-platoon system, the number
of firefighters rose to 107 in 1957. Stations
13, 16 and 29 open.
1960s - The first
fireboat is purchased in 1964. In 1969, the 242-person
department is named the best fire-preventing department
in its class in Florida. Five more fire stations are added,
49 and 53.
1970s - The first
black firefighter joins the department in 1970, followed
in 1975 by the first firefighter who is also a paramedic.
opens in 1971. The first female firefighters (five in
all) are hired in 1978.
1980s - The Firefighter's
Insurance Trust Fund is established and the Fort Lauderdale
Fire Department is 100 percent unionized. In 1985, Station
3 moves to its current location on SW 4th Avenue and
opens on NW 21st Avenue.
1990s - In 1996,
Engine 46 is named "the busiest engine company in
On March 1, 2000, the first female was promoted to hold the title of Deputy Fire Chief in the history of the City.
On September 11, 2001, within hours of the terrorist attacks, six Fort Lauderdale firefighters leave for New York with a 72-member team to assist with the rescue efforts at Ground Zero. That same year, ground is broken at 528 NW Second Street for a new combined Fire-Rescue station and administration building.
In 2004, voters approved a $40 million bond issue to build, renovate and upgrade 10 fire stations. Plans aimed to hardened fire stations to hurricane forces, further reduce response times and accommodate population growth.
In 2009, the City’s Fire-Rescue Department responded to 41,000 incidents. Operational enhancements included opening Fire Stations 3, 29, and 49.
In late 2010, progress on other stations continued to move forward.
- Fire Station 46: Planning stage (Mills Pond Park)
- Fire Station 35: Planning stage (Commercial Blvd/Church Property)
- Fire Station 13: To be reviewed (Feasibility Study)
- Fire Station 54: To be reviewed (Feasibility Study)
- Fire Station 8: To be reviewed (Feasibility Study)
The Future - Building on a legacy of almost 100 years of service, the future is bright for the men and women of Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue and the people we serve. Strong leadership, dedicated personnel, persistent training, state-of-the-art technology and upgraded facilities are key to saving lives and protecting property for this generation and generations to come.
Fort Lauderdale Fire & Safety Museum
For a hands-on historical experience, please visit the Fort Lauderdale Fire & Safety Museum.