organized Tampa Volunteer Fire Department was established in 1884,
consisting of sixteen people. Fire fighting was performed by means
of bucket brigades, utilizing two public wells located downtown. The
fire fighters arrived at the fire on foot.
As the increasing need for fire protection became evident, many
citizens of the community volunteered for the fire department. The
department grew quickly to seven companies stationed throughout
On July 30, 1886, a hand pump was donated to the department. The
pump included a reel of 2-inch hose, 350 feet long, and required
four men to operate it. Shortly after this gift was received, several
citizens donated both hose carts and hose to the department.
the late 1880s a hydrant system, fed by artesian wells, was developed.
Later water towers and pump houses were built to provide needed
Several major fires in the early 1890s, led the city council to
consider the purchase of fire equipment and the establishment of
a full time, paid fire department.
May 10, 1895, a paid fire department was authorized.
The newly established Tampa Fire Department (TFD) consisted of
the Fire Chief and 22 full time fire fighters. The department housed
its equipment and men in five fire stations. The budget for 1896,
An alarm box system was installed, around this time, with thirty
boxes throughout the city. The boxes were locked. A near by resident
was in charge of the key. False alarms were extremely low, as the
key was only given to people that appeared to need it.
1912 the department purchased two motorized hose trucks, manufactured
by LaFrance. From this point on only motorized vehicles were ordered,
replacing older equipment and retiring faithful horses that had
answered the alarms previously.
The first radio the department had was installed in the Chief's
car in 1940. It was a one way radio, using the police frequency.
In 1941, a two-way radio replaced it, but it too used the police
frequency. It wasn't until 1947, that the FCC granted the fire department
it's own radio frequency. Radio and telephone dispatching became
the responsibility of headquarters, Station No.1.
On January 1, 1954, annexation of Drew Park, Sulphur Springs, Palma
Ceia, and Ballast Point practically doubled the size of the department.
The TFD acquired 4 stations and all of the equipment. Volunteer fire
fighters that qualified and wished to join the department were hired.
The Port Tampa area was annexed to the city on May 12, 1961, providing
the department with another station. A 1000-gallon per minute (gpm)
pumper and a 500-gpm-tank truck were placed in service at the station,
to better serve the area.
TFD purchased it's first aerial platform vehicle in 1970, at the
cost of $79,000. Fire fighters were required to complete 50 hours
of specialized training before they could operate this sophisticated
Paramedic-manned station wagons were first deployed in July of
1973. Before long the station wagons were replaced with units capable
of transporting patients. Hillsborough County Division of Emergency
Medical Services, which provides Basic Life Support service to both
the city and the county, eventually replaced this service.
Mechy Kent, hired in June of 1978, was the first female fire fighter
employed by the TFD. Less than two months later, Hollis Boggs, became
the second female to work as a fire fighter for the city.
The plug-in switch board and hand written card system were replaced
with a Computer Aided Dispatch System, placed on line Thanksgiving
Day, 1983. Five years later, in 1988, a county wide 911 Emergency
System was implemented. Improvements in technology have led to a
system that displays the caller's address and phone number, while
placing them directly into the system. Voice enunciators, that electronically
inform the system which vehicles are responding to an alarm, further
enhance TFD's ability to provide fire protection throughout the
first enclosed cab, air conditioned pumpers were placed into service
in 1990. Each vehicle purchased since then includes these improvements,
protecting the fire fighters from the extremes in Tampa's weather
while traveling to and from fires.
The TFD has gone through many changes in its 125 plus year history.
It has gone from volunteer to paid fire fighters, from horse drawn
apparatus to motor driven equipment, from locked call boxes to emergency
911 phone communications. Throughout it all the fire fighters have
been willing to change to better serve the public.
The Tampa Fire Department and the fire fighters that put their lives
on the line daily deserve our gratitude.
Thank you all - for jobs well done.