On June 23, 1882 the Middletown Division of Fire was created replacing the volunteer fire departments that had protected the town since 1848.
This newly organized department was to be part paid and still use "runners" as needed. The new Chief was to be appointed by the mayor for a two year term and be paid $100 per year. The hose reel driver was to receive $25 per year and the "runners" $5 per year.
Although the volunteer departments served the town well up until this time, so much competition developed between them that there was more fighting among themselves for honors at the fire, than time spent fighting the fire. This, in all probability, led to their demise.
The newly organized Fire Department was housed in the first City Building (built in 1880) on North Broad Street, with the Police Department, the jail and the courts. Atop the building was the bronze fire bell which today is mounted along side the bell from the "old #2 Fire Station" at Headquarters Station on Roosevelt Blvd.
The first Fire Chief on record was Alexander Hill. At that time, only hand apparatus was used. Since the days of "Alex" Hill, Middletown had a succession of Fire Chiefs until 1920. Records indicate that Fire Chiefs usually came and went with the change in the city administration.
The men who headed the firefighters since that time following Hill, in succession, were: John Oglesby, William Barnett, George Speidle, Thorp Thompson, George Sebald, Harry Ewing, John Weinell, James Anderson and Elmer Reed (appointed in 1920).
The first Fire Inspector was O. O. Barry, appointed November 23, 1883.
June 25, 1884, the Fire Chief was authorized to employ 12 men to assist with the Hook and Ladder Truck at a salary of one dollar per run.
June 25, 1885, Chief Hill resigned as Fire Chief and John Oglesby was appointed as Fire Chief, July 10, 1885.
Horse drawn apparatus came on the scene in 1886 and horses were utilized until the department went motorized in 1914.
William Barnett was appointed Fire Chief, July 26, 1887.
Chief Barnett's salary was raised to $200 per year, Assistant Chief Brereton received $150 per year and the Firemen received $100 per year. Volunteers or "runners" received $10 per year.
A new hose wagon was purchased in 1888.
It is interesting to note here that John Ross was appointed to the Fire Department August 1, 1888 and retired as Assistant Chief almost 49 years later on June 1, 1937.
June 24, 1889, the Mayor suspended Chief Barnett for "wetting down" onlookers at a fire. This action was not upheld by Council, but Barnett resigned anyway a few months later.
Records are unclear for the next 20 years or so, but sometime during this period, George Sebald was appointed Fire Chief. Chief Sebald, it should be noted, was President of the Sebald Brewing Company and breeder of thoroughbred horses.
In 1890 or 1891 the addition of a Babcock aerial ladder was purchased. It was drawn by three handsome black horses which were the pride of the town. The population of Middletown was around 9 or 10 thousand. The number of fires per year were about 50 to 60, with fire losses averaging between $15,000 and $20,000 annually.
March, 1893, James Anderson was appointed Police Chief and later to become Fire Chief in 1914.
Number Two Fire Station, at Crawford Street and Linden Avenue, was built in 1897. However, it was not used as a fire station until 1902.
Until 1910, only the drivers of apparatus remained in the fire stations around the clock. The "runners" who were paid $10 per month, responded to fires from their homes. In 1911, the department was reorganized. The "runners" were let go and the department became fully paid with 10 members. John Weinell was the first Fire Chief under the organized method.
In 1914, the Fire Chief was James Anderson (previously mentioned as Police Chief.) The Firemen's Pension Fund was established and the firefighter's work week was reduced from 24 hours off per month to 24 hours off per week.
Later, in 1914, horses were no longer used for fire pumpers as the Fire Department became motorized by the addition of two motorized Seagrave combination hose and chemical trucks. The horses were given to the Street Department. The aerial ladder wagon was pulled to a fire by a motorized vehicle after 1917 when all the horses were let go.
April 25, 1919, Chief James Anderson died and Elmer Reed was named Acting Chief. Also this year, the fireman's work week was reduced to 24 hours on duty and 24 hours off duty.
June 18, 1920, Elmer Reed was appointed Fire Chief, a position he was to serve in for the next 24 years.
In 1921 the first Ahrens Fox pumper was purchased, a much needed improvement to the department. A second one was added in 1924 to the No. 2 Company and both the old Seagrave trucks were disposed of.
December 13, 1930 the new Firehouse Company No. 3 at Yankee Road and Young Street was placed in commission. A new Ahrens Fox Quad pumper was added to the apparatus list. The number of fire personnel grew from 19 to 32 men. The City at this time was 4-1/2 square miles in area.
February, 1931, the new 85 foot aerial truck was placed in service to replace the old horse drawn aerial purchased in the early 1890's.
Due to the depression, the firemen's salary, which was $1,800 a year, was reduced to $1,560 per year. Assistant Chiefs were reduced in rank to Captains and Captains to Sergeants. The Chief's salary was $2,500 at that time. The most serious fire in 1932 was the F. O. Diver Milling Company. This fire, for a time, threatened to become a conflagration and Chief Reed credited the new aerial truck for much of its containment.
Through the next several years, reports shows that chimney fires were the leading cause for fire alarms.
It was during the "thirties" that firemen began making emergency runs to assist people who suffered serious illness and accident. The first resuscitator was bought in 1938.
1939 saw the firemen's work week reduced to 72 hours.
1940 is significant for the large fire at the Sorg Paper Company. Middletown firemen were assisted by other fire departments, such as Franklin, Hamilton and as far away as Dayton. This fire lasted 31 hours and scores of firemen were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and injuries.
In 1942 the department bought its first emergency truck. This truck was manned by the personnel assigned to the ladder truck and the Assistant Chief on duty. Also, due to the war, Number 3 Station was closed periodically due to men being drafted and/or enlisting in the service. The auxiliary firemen's organization was formed at this time to help alleviate the personnel shortages.
It is interesting to note that Assistant Chief Ralph Reed, Chief Reed's son retired in 1944, two months before Chief Reed retired.
1945, William Fishbaugh was appointed Fire Chief. It is believed that he was the youngest (37 years old) Fire Chief of a paid department at that time. Also in 1945, two new American LaFrance pumpers and a new emergency truck were also received.
1946 was the year of the famous Dixie News fire at 1001 Central Avenue. Again, firemen from Franklin, Hamilton and Dayton assisted in quelling this stubborn blaze.
During 1949 the $100,000 fire at 1359 Central Avenue occurred. This was the Rathman Building.
In 1950, two way mobile radios were installed in all apparatus. The City Manager was made Safety Director and the Fire Department became the Division of Fire.
One of the most progressive periods in the history of the Fire Department occurred between 1951 and 1956. Two new fire stations were built. The old station on Broad Street was closed and relocated in the new #1 Station at 307 N. Clinton Street. An additional Fire Station (No. 4) was built at Jackson Street and Tytus Avenue. Fire personnel increased from 40 to 66 and the work week was reduced to 56 hours. Three new pumpers and an 85' aerial truck, all American LaFrance, were bought and placed in service. This was all a result of a bond issue which passed in 1951.
In 1955 the City insurance rating improved by dropping from a Class 5 to a Class 4. The $300,000 fire at Armco's Eastside Warehouse occurred that year.
1956, the large $379,000 fire at Prior Products occurred on Atco Street.
1959, Robertson Sporting Goods fire at Clinton Street and Central Avenue resulted in $125,000 damage.
1964, two 1000 gpm pumpers were purchased form Seagrave.
1965, Chief Fishbaugh retired and Charles Hansel was appointed Chief. Two major fires occurred that year: the M. J. Gibbons Supply Company at $310,000 loss and a $100,000 fire at Armco.
1966, the number of fire personnel was increased to 82 when the new Fire Station #5 was opened at Central Avenue and Breiel Boulevard.
1968 and 1969, the first diesel fire pumpers (Mack), were purchased. The City is now 19 square miles in area.
1970, Chief Hansel retired and James Mattson was appointed Chief.
1972, two major fires occurred. One was a furniture store at 1363 Central Avenue, which extended to the Union Sanitary Laundry building (which was involved in a fire mentioned earlier in 1949).
The other fire, Miami Cabinet Company building may have been the most spectacular fire ever in Middletown's history. Because of its size and the brisk wind prevalent at that time, fire brands from the main fire ignited smaller fires elsewhere. Fortunately, wood shingle roofs were no longer as extensively used on buildings as they were in years past.
Also in 1972, a Ward LaFrance diesel pumper replaced a 1952 model.
1973, Chief Mattson retired and Victor Auvil was appointed Chief. Portable two way radios were added as an important tool to the Fire Division.
1974 is significant because arson became the major reason for fire loss. Fires in the Kroger Store on N. University, a former Kroger Store on S. Main Street (used as a warehouse) and the School Administration Building on Girard were all set by arsonists. There were many others, but these were the most noteworthy.
On the positive side, in 1974, the Division received two federally funded ambulances and began Emergency Medical Service for the people of Middletown. Until this time, all emergency transports to the hospital were performed by funeral directors and private ambulance service.
1975, a new 100' American LaFrance aerial truck was placed in service. The 1952 ladder truck, which was damaged extensively in an accident earlier, was repaired and placed in reserve status.
1977, firefighter's work week was reduced to 54 hours. Long a source of false alarms, the old street boxes, installed in the 1920's, were removed. The permit system, which had never been fully utilized in the past, was put back in the Fire Code.
In 1978, the largest annual fire loss was recorded. Major losses were: $250,000 at Diamond National and $300,000 in losses at two separate fires at Armco.
Number 2 Station on Crawford Street was closed in late 1978 and Number Three Station in June, 1979. All apparatus and personnel were moved to the new Headquarters Station at Wicoff Street and Roosevelt Blvd.
1979 saw the beginning of the Division's two emergency squad's paramedic service. A new attack pumper was also placed in service.
Major fires and losses were: Bonanza Steak House at $275,000 and Osborne Studio at $225,000.
1980 was a record year for ambulance runs (3,696). Major fires were at 207 Highland Street, Sorrell Meat Market and Middletown's oldest business structure, Diver's Coal and Feed Co.
New apparatus received was a new 1000 gpm pumper and ambulance.
1982, in memory of our predecessors and comrades who served in the fire service for the City of Middletown, a Memorial was erected at Woodside Cemetery. It is most fitting that these deceased members be remembered on our 100th anniversary with this permanent tribute to be paid for by present firefighters and our citizens. It is our hope we can carry on the tradition of service to the people of Middletown that they did so well.
1985, Chief Victor Auvil retired and Edward Manning was appointed Fire Chief.
1990, Chief Edward Manning retired and John Sauter was appointed Fire Chief.
1995, Combined Police and Fire dispatching started in the Police Department, with civilian dispatchers. This ended a long tradition of each division doing their own dispatching with their own personnel.
1995, a third full time Paramedic Squad was put into service at Station #5 at Central and Breiel.
1997, newly remodeled Station #2 opened on Dixie Highway. Medic 2, which had been at Station #5 is now assigned there with new Engine 2.
Area of the city is now 25.48 square miles with a population of 51,605.