The City of Tallahassee’s Fire Department has been fighting fires and responding to emergencies for more than 100 years. While Tallahassee developed as a city, firefighting was a community effort ranging from "bucket brigades" to hand- and horse-drawn wagons. In 1902, the first centralized fire department was established by the city, and in 1915 the first motorized truck, a LaGrange, was purchased for the sum of $8,000.
Fire prevention has been a large part of the fabric of the Tallahassee Fire Department. As early as 1843, the city enacted building ordinances that required all buildings in Tallahassee to be constructed of fireproof material. This was in response to the "Great Fire of 1843" that destroyed almost all of downtown Tallahassee, a business district of more than 90 structures. In 1912, Chief T.P. Coe was quoted in local newspapers saying that ladders should be readily available at all residences so neighbors could possibly put out a fire with a bucket of water.
Firefighting, fire prevention and responses to all types of emergencies have grown extensively in the last 100 years. Today TFD has 16 stations serving and protecting about 702 square miles of incorporated and unincorporated land in Tallahassee and Leon County and over 278,000 people. The department is comprised of 282 full-time certified firefighters, 261 of whom respond to over 22,000 incidents annually and 21 whom are on staff. In addition, 14 general support employees provide a variety of administrative support.
The face of firefighting is changing constantly. In Tallahassee's recent past, the majority of calls were for fires, predominantly resulting from kitchen accidents, chimney sparks and arson. Now the department faces a multifaceted response requirement that is daunting, to say the least. Thirty-two percent of current emergency calls are for emergency medical services (EMS). To field approximately 7,000 EMS calls annually, TFD provides the largest non-hospital-based medical response force from Jacksonville to Pensacola. In the face of a major medical emergency in the community, TFD will be the first responder.
But, above and beyond the medical response mission of the department, TFD has trained its staff to respond to such specialized needs as arson investigation, structure collapse, high-angle rescue, extrication, search and rescue, and hazardous materials. Additionally, working with the county and state agencies, TFD assumes the lead role for the city in planning for and responding to man-made and natural disasters.
TFD has a long and distinguished history of responding to the public safety needs of the city and Leon and surrounding counties. The Department enthusiastically accepts this challenge. TFD continues to plan how to best serve and protect citizens for the next 100 years.