Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service
Currently, the service is organized into five battalions with 648 firefighters, responding from 31 stations to over 62,000 calls per year. The Department's motto is "Excellence through Service".
The Birmingham Fire Department originally only served what is known as the current the downtown area. With the Expansion of the city in 1910 to the Greater Birmingham area the city went from just 8 stations to 18 active with 2 closed down for various reasons.
By the end 1872 the downtown area had been furnished with municipal water and two dozen fire hydrants had been installed. Pioneer Fire Company No. 1 was organized privately on a volunteer basis to provide fire protection. Another fire company, the Mineral City Fire Company No. 2 acquired a hand-pumped fire engine, which they named "Tom Tate" in honor of a respected builder. Friendly competition between fire companies gave rise to frequent drills as members trained to respond quickly to alarms, signaled from an 800-pound bell atop the Jefferson County Courthouse.
In April 1874 the Pioneer Company voted to admit members of the Hook & Ladder Fire Company No. 1 and Mineral City Fire Company No. 2 which had been banned by the Birmingham Board of Aldermen, to join as members of their chartered company. Among those admitted were James Luckie, Frank O'Brien and Tom Jeffers.
The City organized its first professional fire department in 1885, appointing Frank Gafford as part-time chief. The department's new steamer, nicknamed "Bossie O'Brien", was paraded for Mardi Gras 1886.
In 1891 the city employed 28 paid firefighters and 15 horses, with a fleet of two Ahren's steam-powered fire engines, three double hose reels, one hook & ladder truck and one chemical engine. The department owned 2,500 feet of new rubber hose and 4,000 feet of cotton rubber-lined hose "in good order." The department responded to calls from a network of 38 alarm boxes within the "Fire Limit" which stretched generally from 4th Avenue South to 4th Avenue North, between 16th and 25th Streets.
In 1904 the city accepted a report from the Southeastern Tariff Association recommending numerous improvements to the city's fire prevention regulations and fire-fighting operations. In addition to advocating for revised building codes, explosives handling restrictions, trash removal and building and electrical inspections, the report detailed needed improvements to the telegraph fire alarm system and fire hydrants, called for increased staffing for existing hose companies, and proposed four new stations to serve Richmond Place, Highlands, Fountain Heights and North Birmingham.
Early on the morning of July 3, 1905 E. B. Huffman and Gip Spruiell became the city's first firefighters to give their lives in the line of duty. Their deaths provided further incentive for the city to invest in the recommended improvements. By May 1909 Mayor George Ward was able to report the following acquisitions for the fire department:
- 1905 (baseline): 6 fire stations, 56 men, 31 horses, 5 engines, 6 hose wagons, 1 truck, 1 chemical unit, 1 chief's buggy, and 320 fire plugs
- 1906: 7 fire stations, 88 men, 40 horses, 5 engines, 7 hose wagons, 2 trucks, 1 chemical unit, 2 chief's buggies, and 365 fire plugs
- 1907: 9 fire stations, 107 men, 46 horses, 6 engines, 9 hose wagons, 2 trucks, 1 chemical unit, 2 chief's buggies, and 426 fire plugs
- 1908: The addition of 3 supply wagons and 34 new fire plugs.1.
The alarm box network was also expanded, with a system of alarm bells which told firemen which ward the alarm originated from. By 1915 however, following an expansion of the service area and the assimilation of numerous suburban departments under the Greater Birmingham annexation in 1910, the city was forced to reduce staff in chief Sidney Middleton's 20-station department.
Later the Chief and Mayor came to an impasse over the question of whether to purchase a new motorized fire pumper. A race between the old and new equipment was organized, with the first company to get from City Hall to present-day Five Points South along 20th Street winning the argument. The motorized pumper did win the race, and proved its worth later when a fire at Howard College broke out. The horses pulling the steam pumper couldn't make the hill. But the motorized pumper was there in a matter of minutes. The last fire service horses in Birmingham were retired in 1916 from Station 17 in Wylam.
On March 10, 1934 the department, headed by chief B. O. Hargrove fought a massive fire at the Loveman, Joseph & Loeb warehouse. Following the fire, a souvenir book describing the battle was published with proceeds going to the Birmingham Firemen's Relief Association. The book listed the department's equipment at the time as follows:
- 1 65-foot Seagrave Water Tower
- 2 85-foot Seagrave Aerial Ladder Trucks
- 1 55-foot Seagrave Service Truck
- 1 55-fot American LaFrance Service Truck
- 2 1200-gallon Seagrave Pumpers
- 1 1000-gallon American LaFrance Pumper
- 2 750-gallon Seagrave Pumpers
- 1 600-gallon Seagrave Pumper
- 14 750-gallon American LaFrance Pumpers
- 3 600-gallon American LaFrance Pumpers
- 1 Seagrave Combination Chemical and Hose Wagon
- Various small trucks and sedans for personnel
- Approx. 70,000 feet of hose line
In 1960 the Birmingham Fire Department had an active firefighting force of 411 men on a total payroll of 440. The roster included 203 firefighters, 104 drivers, 63 lieutenants, 28 captains, 11 battalion chiefs, 7 fire alarm operators, 3 mechanics, and several other support staff, including, at the time, 2 black helpers. During the preceding year, the department had responded to 4,645 calls, with Birmingham Fire Station No. 5 the busiest in the city, with 419 calls.
The department added a paramedic program to its services in 1973, modeling its system on one used by the U. S. Air Force. Chief Floyd Wilks made the first rescue run from Birmingham Fire Station No. 1 on November 22 of that year, responding to the shooting of a Phillips High School student at Linn Park. That unit made an average of 300 calls a month across the city. It was joined by two additional trucks in 1974. The equipment was replaced with larger trucks in 1977, and again in 1993, when the department began transporting critical patients to hospitals in its own rescue vehicles rather than calling for ambulance services. By 1999 it had added enough units to transport all patients and was participating in the Birmingham Regional Emergency Medical Services System to determine which emergency room was best equipped to handle the call.
The department currently operates with 648 firefighters staffing 31 stations in five battalions. The department has 27 pumpers, 5 quint trucks, 1 100 ft. platform quint, 1 100 ft. tiller ladder truck and 19 ALS transport units. They also have two hazardous materials units, two heavy rescue units, two decontamination units, two brush-fire trucks, two foam units and one air unit. The department also keeps a small fleet of special event carts which can be used for operations during public events like the Magic City Classic.
- Frank Gafford, 1885–1886 (as Birmingham City Marshal)
- A. O. Pickard, 1886–1887 (as Birmingham City Marshal)
- Ferdinand Neville, 1887–1890 (first full-time chief)
- Thad Mullin, 1890–1905
- Will Walton, 1905–1906
- Armenius Bennett, 1906–1914
- Sidney Middleton, 1914–1922
- J. L. Akin, 1922 – January 15, 1934
- B. O. Hargrove, January 15, 1934 – 1937
- Alf Brown, 1937 - November 1945
- J. R. Smith (provisional), November 1945 – June 1, 1948
- Hoyt Ayers, June 1, 1948 – 1957
- R. B. Knox, 1957–1960
- John Swindle, 1960–1970s
- Oscar Brennan, 1993–1997
- Raymond Brooks, 1997–2002
- Dwayne Murray, 2002– January 2007
- Carl Harper, January-November 2007
- Ivor Brooks, November 14, 2007–May 28, 2014
- Charles Gordon, September 3, 2014-December 28, 2018
- John Whitmer (interim), December 28, 2018-February 2020
- Cory Moon, February 3, 2020-
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 1, 1808 7th Avenue North, rebuilt in 1971 (Downtown)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 2, 1900 4th Avenue South (Southside)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 3, 2210 Highland Avenue, (Highland), listed on the National Register
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 4, 110 Oslo Circle, Oxmoor
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 6, 1500 3rd Avenue North, (Downtown)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 7, 437 16th Avenue South (Green Springs)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 8, 4120 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd (East Birmingham)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 9, 1220 27th Street North (Norwood)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 10/22, 4500 5th Avenue South (Avondale and Clairmont)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 11 (2005), 4601 Bessemer Super Highway (Roosevelt City)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 12, 6449 1st Avenue North (Woodlawn)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 13, 2229 30th Avenue North (North Birmingham)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 14, 210 Graymont Avenue West (Graymont)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 15, 1725 Jefferson Avenue (West End)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 16, 2001 Avenue I Ensley (Ensley)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 17, 700 Lexington Street(Wylam)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 18, 200 Dugan Ave (Pratt City)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 19, 7713 Division Avenue (East Lake) built 1928, listed on the National Register
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 20, 4825 Avenue W Ensley (Fairview/Five Points West)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 21, 109 2nd Avenue North (Elyton)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 23, 4121 40th Place North (Inglenook)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 24, 4316 Avenue Q (Central Park) built 1926, Listed on the National Register
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 25, 3015 Wilson Road (Powderly/Wenonah)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 26, 1700 Montclair Road (Crestline)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 27, 401 Huffman Road (Roebuck)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 28, 2501 Carson Road (Jefferson State Community College)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 29, 1048 Lawson Road (Airport Hills)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 30, 1512 Springville Road (Huffman)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 31, 2478 Alton Road (East Jefferson)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 32, 3995 U.S. Highway 280 South (Highway 280)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 4 (1926), 214 24th Street North. Converted to private office building.
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 5, Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, replaced by Birmingham Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station in 2022
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 2 (1930s), 1900 4th Avenue South. Sold to Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 10, 4120 (2nd Avenue South) (Avondale) Retired 2009. Listed on the National Register. Vacant.
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 11 (1910), 1250 13th Street North (Fountain Heights), listed on the National Register. Demolished
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 12, 115 57th Street South (Woodlawn), listed on the National Register. Converted into the Dream Center
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 15, 1435 Steiner Avenue
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 16, 1623 Avenue G Ensley (Ensley)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 17, 720 Huron Street (Wylam)
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 21, 57 Center Street
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 23, 4100 40th Terrace North (Inglenook), converted to Inglenook Library.
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 22, 3114 Clairmont Avenue (Forest Park), listed on the National Register. Converted to Bogue's restaurant and Triple Platinum Salon
- Birmingham Fire Station No. 25, 3136 Jefferson Avenue
- "Recommendations for Birmingham" (December 1904) Insurance Engineering. Vol. 8, No. 6, p. 595-7
- Ward, George B. (May 1, 1909) "How Birmingham Has Grown in Past Four Years." Birmingham Ledger. Reprinted in "Geo. Ward Made a Business Mayor. Geo. Ward Will Make a Business Sheriff. Help Him Win" (1910) Birmingham. Roberts & Son, Printers. - accessed via the Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- "Changes in Birmingham" (August 11, 1915) Fire and Water Engineering. Vol. 58, No. 6, p. 88
- Kuhl, Earl D., editor (1934) "Illustrated Souvenir: Birmingham's $3,000,000 Fire, March 10, 1934." Birmingham: Birmingham Firemen's Relief Association. - accessed at Birmingham Public Library Archives Digital Collections - accessed February 22, 2007
- "Birmingham, Ala." (October 1, 1963) Fire Engineering
- Laughlin, Jerry W. (1972) "The Birmingham Fire Department: The First 100 Years 1872-1972". Birmingham Firefighters Local 117.
- Laughlin, Jerry W. (1974) Bama Burning: Fourteen Famous Fires in Alabama. self-published
- Bryant, Walter E. (February 24, 1997) "City's rescue services have grown since first began 23 years ago." Birmingham News
- Baumgardner, Randy W. Birmingham Fire & Rescue Service: Millennium Edition. (2002) Nashville, Tennessee: Turner Publishing Co. ISBN 1563117002
- "Mayor Bell names new fire chief for Birmingham" (September 3, 2014), WBRC Fox 6/MyFoxAL.com
- Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service website
- International Association of Firefighters Birmingham Local 117 website
- Fire station map at Dave's Place (dave911.com)