History of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department
1901- Jacksonville’s population sits at 30,000 people. The population has increased 100% in the last 10 years. The Jacksonville Fire Department has a total strength of 36 members.
May 3rd, 1901- At 12:39pm, the department received an alarm by telephone that a fire had broken out at the Cleaveland Mattress Factory. Immediately upon arrival, Fire Chief Haney summoned all Jacksonville Fire Department personnel and apparatus. As the fire at the mattress factory seemed under control, calls for other fires in the vicinity began to come in. Wind had spread embers throughout a several block area. These wind-fanned embers ignited a massive fire that engulfed a major portion of the city. By 8:30 that evening, the wind had died down and the flames quelled. Seven people had lost their lives in the largest and most destructive fire in the history of the Southeastern United States. 2,368 buildings burned, 140 city blocks were decimated, and 10,000 people were left homeless. The National Guard was on the streets of Jacksonville by sun down.
May 6th, 1901- Jacksonville Fire Chief Thomas Haney issues the first permit for rebuilding to Rudolph Grunthal.
May 10th, 1901- Chief Haney and Fireman R.B. Thrasher were injured en route to a fire when their carriage collided with a pile of timber.
1902- Central Fire Station 1 is rebuilt and reopened at Ocean and Adams. Station 3 is relocated to its new fire station at 12 Catherine Street.
December 1904- Firefighter Dick Bleckman falls through the pole hole at Fire Station Number 2. He dies from his injuries.
1908- Fire Station 6 is placed into service. Station 6 is located on Florida Avenue. Ladder Company 2 was placed into service at Fire Station 4. Fire Station 7 is opened at 930 Kings Rd.
1909- A new home for Engine 2 fire fighters opens. The new Fire Station Number 2 is located at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets in the Springfield section of Jacksonville. The “Springfield Deuce” remains in service to this day.
1909- High Pressure Company Number 1 is placed into service at Station Number 1.
December 20th, 1909- The new high pressure water system has been inaugurated in the business district.
June 10th, 1910- Trolley car number 2 of the Main Street Railroad was struck by lightning. Engine 2 quickly responded and extinguished the fire. The fire burned a hole in the roof of the trolley.
May 18th, 1991- The grandstand at the Moncrief Downs Horse Racing Track burns to the ground.
1912- The Jacksonville Fire Department purchases its first motorized equipment, two engines and a 65-foot aerial ladder.
December 9th, 1915– Fire destroys the Church of the Good Shepherd, located at the intersection of Park and Stockton Streets. The church was rebuilt and stands there today.
April 8th, 1917- An Easter Sunday fire destroyed the Clyde Stemship Line terminal located on the river between Newnan and Washington Streets.
1918– Off duty time for firefighters is expanded to one day off in four.
December 18th, 1918– Chief Haney approaches the Jacksonville City Council in regards to purchasing a fire boat.
June 11th, 1919– at 6:30pm, Firefighters began a six week strike. Firefighters stayed out of the fire stations, but remained nearby and agreed to respond to any large fire or fire in a hospital, old folks home, or school. Of the 125 men on the Jacksonville Fire Department, only one, George Sirmans, stayed on the job.
January 1st, 1920– The Jacksonville Fire Department was placed on a two-platoon system.
1920- The Jacksonville Fire Department shop facilities were moved to the rear of Fire Station 3 and remained there until 1952.
December 17th, 1921- The last two horses on the Jacksonville Fire Department, Rock and Sanko, are retired from Fire Station 7 on Kings Rd.
September 1st, 1922- Jacksonville’s first fire boat, the John B. Callahan, is placed in service. The Callahan was a converted 110- foot sub chaser.
1923- Station 8 is placed into service at 625 Stockton Street. Engine 8 is moved from Station 5 to the new station.
1924– The Arlington Volunteer Fire Department is formed. They have 2 stations.
January 1st, 1926- Chief Thomas Haney retires from the Jacksonville Fire Department. He is succeeded by Chief Hubert R. MacMillian.
July 29th, 1926- A fire breaks out at the Ocean View Hotel in Jacksonville Beach. 50 guests are safely evacuated from the 60 room hotel. The fire is fanned by winds from a hurricane off the coast.
1927- Fire Stations 9, 10, and 11 open up.
March 1st, 1927- Fireman Sam L. Varnes of Engine 2 was killed in a vehicle accident while responding to a fire. As Engine 2 approached the intersection of Eighth and Talleyrand, it began to slide on the slippery streets. The engine hit a telephone pole, killing Varnes.
1928– Ladder Four is placed into service at Fire Station 10. Sam Somers is the first Captain. Station 3 is deactivated and sent to Avondale to form Station 14.
July 10th, 1929- The Ferryboat Jackson catche fire in the middle of the St. Johns River. The Fire Boat Callahan nudges the boat to the shores of the southbank, where the fire is extinguished.
1932- The City of Jacksonville annexes the town of South Jacksonville. Engine 12 is placed into service on Jacksonville’s South Bank.
1933- New Fire Station 14 at 4242 Herschel Street opens.
June 30th, 1933- In what is the Jacksonville Fire Department's worst crash, Engine 7 and Ladder 2 collide at the intersection of Davis and Church Streets. Six firemen were injured. Fire Fighter Harry Graves, riding Ladder 2, was riding the right side running board and was in the direct path of Engine 7. He was killed instantly.
September 1st, 1933– Chief T.A. MacMillian retires as Chief of the Jacksonville Fire Department. He is succeeded by Chief W.Q. Dowling.
March 21st, 1934- Jacksonville Firefighter Jerman J. Williams, assigned to Ladder Two at Station Four after the death of Harry Graves, was shot and killed while operating at the scene of a house fire at State and Johnson Streets. Williams attempted to prevent a motorist from driving across a section of charged hose line. The driver, Charles Curvin, a bellman at a local hotel, opened fire, striking Williams in the heart. Williams left behind a wife and 2 children, ages six and two.
1936– A Fire tower is constructed at Fire Station 8 to assist in training. To this day, it overlooks Interstate 10 at the Stockton Street exit.
July 19th, 1939- Thomas Haney, Chief of the Jacksonville fire Department from 1892-1926, dies at the age of 78.
June 8th, 1941- As America inches closer to its entry into World War II, another suspicious fire breaks out at the Clyde Steamship Line Terminal. The steamer Seminole was trapped between two burning piers. She pulled away from the pier, burned on both sides and a working fire on board. 15 fire fighters were injured and over 200 volunteers were treated at a field hospital set up at Camp Blanding. The terminal was a major production spot for Liberty ships, torpedos, and mine sweepers.
1941– Fire Station 13 in San Marco, a former South Jacksonville Fire Station, is placed into service.
May 6th, 1943– Fire Chief W.Q. Dowling retires from the Jacksonville Fire Department.
May 13th, 1943– Chief G.E. Hare is named Chief of the Jacksonville Fire Department.
July 20th, 1944- Two P-51 Mustangs collide over the 2800 and 2900 blocks of Post Street, in between Willow Branch and Cherry Streets, causing extensive fires to twelve houses, three apartments, and three garage apartments. A third alarm was struck. Both pilots, one of which was a Lee High School Graduate, died.
1946- The Jacksonville Fire Department adds two portable iron lungs and two resuscitators to the equipment on the Chief’s cars.
1946- The Homestead, a gasoline tanker, is struck by lightning while unloading aviation fuel at the Standard Oil Terminal on Talleyrand Avenue. Three men were killed as Jacksonville Firefighters spent eight days fighting the blaze.
September 1946– The Oceanway Volunteer Fire Department is formed in the Oceanway section of Jacksonville’s north side. Ground is broken on a station to be housed at 202 Florida Avenue. The first Chief of the OVFD is Bill Watkins. The Oceanway Volunteer Fire Department would later go on to become Jacksonville’s Fire Station 35.
1947- Ground is broken on Fire Station 15.
1947– The City of Jacksonville takes over fire protection duties at the Jacksonville Municipal Airport. The fire station at the airport becomes Fire Station 16.
1947– Engine 3 is re-activated at placed at Fire Station 1.
1948– Fire Station 15 opens at 54th and Pearl Streets. It remains in service today, housing Rescue 15.
April 22nd, 1948- A local newspaper reports that the Jacksonville Fire Department has 1.65 Firefighters for every 1,000 citizens, up from 1.1 firefighters a year earlier. The top salary of a firefighter is $3,192, up from $2,782 in 1943. Five Chiefs cars and five fire engines, in addition to the Central Fire Station, are now equipped with radios.
April 26th, 1948- A fire aboard the S.S. William R. Davie docked at Commodore’s Point Terminal caused $5,400 worth of damage.
June 25th, 1948- A brand new 75-foot American LaFrance aerial ladder arrives at Fire Station 8 and undergoes tests before it is placed into service.
July 27th, 1948- A third alarm fire destroys Patrick Auto Supply at 1448 Miami Rd. Engines 12 and 13, along with Ladder 2 arrived on scene to find fire coming through the roof.
August 3rd, 1948- A steam boiler explodes at 2350 St. Johns Avenue, causing $120,000 in damage. The explosion sends debris flying over 3 blocks.
September 10th, 1948- An explosion causes a third alarm fire at the Sinclair Refining Facilities at 1151 Talleyrand Avenue. JFD Assistant Chief Harvey states the blaze is most likely started by the static electricity caused by the loading of rail tank cars.
1948– The Southside Estates Volunteer Fire Department is organized and housed at 9714 Patton Road. After serving as Duval county Fire Department Station No. 60, they will later move to Hogan Road and become Jacksonville Fire Station 28.
March 10th, 1949- A conflagration struck Jacksonville at the St. Johns River Shipbuilding Company on East Adams Street. The blaze swept through a half-mile waterfront area. Firemen spent over 10 hours fighting fire and many more hours hitting hot spots. Chief George Hare ordered the blowing of “Big Jim” after the fire reached three alarms in order to recall off duty firefighters. More than 10,650 feet of hose was laid during the blaze.
April 4th, 1949- Two separate fires break out at Kirby Smith Junior High School. Engines 2 and 9, along with Ladder 3 quickly knock down the fire.
October 16th, 1949- Captain G.H Fulton is promoted to Fifth Assistant Chief with a salary increase to $347.22 a month.
1950– The Mandarin Volunteer Fire Department is formed. They are eventually housed at the intersection of State Road 13 and Delor Drive. This station will later become Jacksonville Fire Station 42.
January 25th, 1950– A three-alarm fire completely destroyed two waterfront warehouses in the rear of Tower Hardware Company Building and the H. and W.B. Drew Company store on West Bay Street.
April 6th, 1950– A second alarm fire is called at the Hebrew Home for the Aged at 2508 Riverside Avenue. Jacksonville Firefighters safely evacuated 41 residents before extinguishing the blaze.
December 1st, 1950– The David Harris and Company Warehouse at 630 West Bay Street is a total loss after a three-alarm fire. The warehouse contained large amounts of alcoholic beverages. Moments after firefighters made entry into the structure, one-half of the roof collapsed.
December 15th, 1950– Fire Station 17 opens at 710 Huron Street.
History of the JFRD– 1901-1950 provided by:
"Heroes All: A History of Firefighting in Jacksonville", by John Cowart
History of the JFRD, 1995-2002 Yearbook, courtesy of Jason Jones
Information compiled by Fire Museum Curator, Linda Treadwell