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An 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 the city.

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.


Circa 1895 - A two hitch hose wagon.In the late 1880s a hydrant system, fed by artesian wells, was developed. Later water towers and pump houses were built to provide needed water pressure.
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, was $18,000.

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.

In 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 new equipment.

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 city.


headquarters - Tampa Fire DepartmentThe 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.