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.

From 2007, until his untimely death of a massive heart attack in May, 2014, the service was headed by Chief Ivor Brooks (who replaced Acting Chief Carl A. Harper). As of 02 June, 2014, no announcement has been made as to when, or by whom, the chief's vacancy will be filled.

Currently, the service is organized into four battalions with 648 firefighters, responding from 30 stations. The Department's motto is "Excellence through Service".


The Birmingham Fire Department originally only served the downtown area. A system of alarm bells told firemen which ward the alarm originated from. The department's new steamer, nicknamed Bossie O'Brien, was paraded for Mardi Gras 1886.

Before the city organized the Fire Department under Chief Neville, the city was protected with Bossie O'Brien and other apparatus by various volunteer outfits that competed with each other.

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.

The city pursued those improvements, and 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.

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 horse in Birmingham was retired in the early 1970's 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

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 30 stations in four battalions. The department has 27 pumpers, 2 quint trucks, 2 bronto units, and 16 rescue units. They also have two hazardous materials units, two heavy rescue units, two air units, two decontamination units and two brush-fire trucks. The department also keeps a small fleet of electric golf carts which can be used for operations during public events like City Stages.



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

External links