Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service

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The Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service was founded in 1872 as the Birmingham Fire Department under chief Ferdinand Neville.

Since 2020, the Department has been led by Fire Chief Cory Moon.

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.



Current stations

Retired stations


  1. (Ward-1909)


  • 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/

External links