Article Index


A Chronology of the Toledo Fire Department, 1837-1976


City Council appointed a committee to ascertain the cost of providing two fire engines for city use.

The first effort to organize a Fire Department was by way of a resolution passed by City Council on November 27, 1837. The resolution provided that whenever a number of citizens, not less than forty, should associate themselves together for the purpose of forming a fire company, the company should be put in possession of an engine, hose-wagon, hooks and ladders, and other equipment. The companies were to be designated by numbers.

Charles McLean was elected Fire Chief of the Volunteer Fire Department. On November 27, 1837, the first Volunteer Company was organized. The first Fire Wardens were appointed on December 29, 1837.

In December of 1837, the first engine house was built on Cherry Street between Huron and Superior. It was known as Engine House No. 1. At about this time, two engines were received from a Mr. Platt on which the freight was paid amounting to $86.93.


The city was divided into three wards, which remained in effect until July 2, 1848, when a fourth was established. Total cost of operation in 1838 was $45.05 plus the cost of two engines $1,909.50. Davy Crockett Fire Engine and Hose Company was formed February 3, 1838.


On November 30, 1840, City Council elected officers for the Fire Department.

The first ordinance for regulating the Toledo Fire Department was passed. It provided that the Department was to consist of a Chief Engineer and such other members as should be appointed from time to time by Council; that one (1) fireman in each ward be appointed a Fire Warden, whose duties were to see that dwellings and business places were properly supplied with fire buckets; that members report for exercise; and cleaning equipment the first Monday of each month from April to October each year. (City Ord. Vol. 1, p. 47)


On May 3, 1842, Council took action and built a new station on Summit, between Adams and Cherry. Franklin Fire and Hose Company formed.


On September 24, 1847, Council provided for purchase of lot 161 Port Lawrence Division and the erection of an engine house not to exceed $2,500.


The department consisted of two engine companies and a hook and ladder company.

It seems that there was no way of giving a general alarm of fire, as on June 14, 1851, an ordinance was passed providing that the foreman of each company should procure a key to the Episcopal Church and keep the same in the rooms of said companies. It was further provided that in case of alarm of fire, the first member of either company to arrive at the room of his company should proceed at once to the church and ring the bell until relieved by the sexton, or until the bell of the Catholic Church should be rung, and that the company whose member should first ring the bell should be paid a reward of $2.00, to be given said member upon the vote of the company. The fine for failing to ring the bell by any member who should be first on the ground was placed at $5.00, while his company forfeited all title to a reward for any service at such fire. The sexton of the Catholic Church was also liable to be a loser by this ordinance, for it stated that unless he rang the bell of that church within five minutes of the ringing of the Episcopal bell, he should forfeit the amount due him for ringing the bell during the current month. Hardest of all, it provided that the premium offered for the earliest ringing of the Episcopal bell would not be paid unless the fireman ringing the same should promptly thereafter lock the door of the church and return the key to its proper place.


By the end of 1852, it is believed that there were three engine companies, known as Neptune No. 1, Erin No. 2, and Croton No. 3. 1853

On October 21, 1853, Council approved the purchase of an engine for Germania Fire Company No. 4.


The department consisted of five chemical and hose companies, (two steam and three hand), one hook and ladder company, and one fire guard (Teutonia).


Records show that in 1858 the department consisted of the following: Fire Co. "Erin" No. 2 - on Adams Street, west side, between St. Clair and Summit; Fire Company Hook & Ladder No. 1 - at the same location; Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 2 - disbanded; No. 3 - Monroe Street; No. 4 - Monroe St., No. 5 - St. Clair St.; No. 6 - Summit St., and one fire guard company. No street numbers are given.


The records show that in 1860 the department consisted of the following: Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 - west side of Adams, between Summit and St. Clair; Engine and Hose Company No. 1 - west side of Cherry, between Superior and Huron; No. 2 - disbanded; No. 3 - west side of Monroe St., between St. Clair and Superior; No. 5 - same as No. 3; No. 6 north side of Summit, between Lagrange and Elm; No. 7 -west side of Monroe between St. Clair and Superior.


It is stated that in 1861 the department consisted of, in actual service, six engine and hose companies, one Hook and Ladder Company, and one fire guard.


There were recorded 22 fires with a total loss of $285,000 during this year. Of this, $225,000 was at the Michigan Southern Elevators fire. Two steam engines, three hand engines, and one Hook and Ladder Company were in use.


The last year of volunteer fire service showed the following stations and apparatus in service. Station No. 1 - Lagrange and Swan Lane; No. 2 - Cherry and Eagle Lane (1st class LaFrance Engine, Muskegon Chemical Engine, and four wheel hose cart); No. 3 - Water, between Adams and Madison; No. 4 - St. Clair, between Perry and Washington; No. 5 - Broadway and Logan (1 LaFrance Engine and 1 Muskegon Hose Wagon); No. 6 - to be located in East Toledo, Starr and Main; No. 7 - Corner of Franklin and Bancroft (1 Seagrave Hook & Ladder and 1 four wheel hose carriage).


Elias Avery was Chief of the Department. After Toledo became a City of the first class, Council provided for the first paid Fire Department. For each steam fire engine there was to be one (1) fireman, one (1) pipe man with full pay, and three (3) pipe men under part pay. The Chief Engineer was to hire and discharge all members by and with consent of Council.

These firemen worked ten (10) days on and one (1) off, with meal hours of one hour and twenty minutes, three times a day (a day was 24 hours). The pay scale was $700.00 a year.

A new station was being erected, and it was not quite ready for occupancy when No. 3 Company was placed on the city payroll. A building occupied by Arm’s Livery Stable was used as the engine house for several months. The new station was built on Water Street near the corner of Madison and was known as Station No. 3. It was completed in 1868.


The City Directory lists the following: Steam Fire Engine House 1-99 Cherry St.; 2-89 St. Clair St.; 3 - Water, between Madison and Adams; 6-102 Lagrange St.; Relief Hook and Ladder Company, Adams opposite Trinity Church; and No. 8 – opposite First St., East Toledo.


An Ordinance Council provided that the Chief Engineer be a full time employee. And, since there was no waterworks system, and because the canal was abandoned, council provided for the construction of 15 wooden cisterns in various locations for use of the Fire Department.


Christ Woehier was Chief of the Department.


Number 2 Fire Station was erected on Cherry Street at Eagle Lane, at a cost of $7,000. It was abandoned in 1953.

On December 15, 1872, the first fireman to be killed in action happened at a fire on Ottawa at Lafayette. A pipeman from No. 4 Company, James Welch, was killed in a fall at a fire that burned the Hall Block, and Tobacco Works. A fire at the Wilcox Co. on Water Street almost killed a whole Company, had they not emerged from the building before it collapsed.


The following stations were erected: No.5 Broadway and Logan; No. 7 - Franklin and Bancroft; No. 8 - Division and Indiana; No. 1 - Lagrange and Swan Lane. Also, a temporary water works in service at Boyd’s Factory, St. Clair Street and Swan Creek, with 73 hydrants in the city.


John Avery was Chief of the Fire Department. District Telegraph and Telephone Companies were organized and fire alarms were successfully received over both systems.


First chemical engine introduced in department. Firemen’s Relief Association organized.


John Nagely, Chief of Fire Department. No. 3 Fire Station Headquarters, Jefferson and Ontario Streets erected.


An act was passed by the State Legislature creating a Board of Trustees of the Firemen’s Pension fund. First full paid fire department. Department was fully uniformed.


The control of the fire department passed from council to a bipartisan commission. The legislature provided that in every city the management and control of the fire department should be vested in a Board of Fire Commissioners, composed of four members, two to be elected and two to be appointed by the Mayor, one from each political body.

First Aerial hook and ladder truck was purchased.


Thomas R. Cook, Chief of the Department. Christopher F. Wall, Chief of Fire Department.


No. 1 Fire Station, Bush & Erie St. erected.

No. 4 Fire Station, Monroe & Bancroft erected.

No. 9 Fire Station, Broadway & Orchard erected.

No. 10 Fire Station, Oak & Fassett erected.

The first Negro fire company was appointed to No. 11 Station on 315 Water Street on October 1, 1893. (Formerly Station No. 3)


January 3, 1894, a fire which burned the King’s Elevators; the Chamber of Commerce; the

Wonderland; and several other buildings, cost the life of Fire Captain James Fraser, of Engine No. 1. Several other firemen were severely injured.


A new station was erected for No. 6 Fire Station at Starr and Main Streets.


Records Indicate a List of Stations and Their Apparatus as Follows:

No. 1 Located at Bush and Erie - 2nd class Ahrens Engine and 1 combination hose wagon and cart.

No. 3 Located at Jefferson near Ontario - 1 Babcock Aerial Turntable Extension Hook and Ladder, 1 Seagrave hook and ladder, 1 Muskegon Chemical Engine, and 1 Milburn Hose Wagon.

No. 4 Located at Monroe near Bancroft - 1 Clapp and Jones Engine, 1 combination hose wagon and chemical.

No. 5 Broadway and Logan - 1 Clapp and Jones Engine

No. 6 Main and Statt - 1 Silsby Engine, 1 Milburn Hose Wagon, 1 Champion Chemical Engine, and 1 Seagrave Hook and Ladder.

No. 7 Franklin and Bancroft - 1 Seagrave Hook and Ladder, and 1 four wheel hose carriage.

No. 8 Division and Indiana - 1 Ahrens Engine and 1 four wheel hose carriage.

No. 9 Broadway and Orchard - 1 Milburn combination Hose Wagon and Chemical.

No. 10 Oak and Fasset - 1 combination hose wagon and Chemical.

No. 11 315 Water near Madison - 1 Milburn hose wagon and 1 Champion Water Tower.


No. 12 Fire Station, Summit & Cleveland erected.

No. 13 Fire Station, Front & Paine Ave. erected.

No. 14 Fire Station, Lagrange & Everett erected.

No. 15 Fire Station, Wayne near Gibbons erected.

Gamewell Fire Alarm System placed in service. The first fire alarm received from a street alarm Box 212 located at Broadway and Ottawa on February 20, 1899.


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