Created on Monday, 10 November 2008 10:02
The Edgewater Fire Department was established on January 19, 1948. Prior to the establishment of the fire department, the forest rangers and New Smyrna Beach Fire Department extinguished the fires in the Town of Edgewater. In 1946, the Town of Edgewater had a police chief who lived on the northeast corner of Park Avenue. Police Chief Bates acquired several Indian Tanks from the Forestry Department and hauled them around in his 1936 Ford. Whenever a brush fire broke out in Edgewater, some of the area youths would clamor to help out with the responding adults to assist in putting out the fires. At that time, the town was about two blocks wide and about two miles long with approximately 300 residents. In late 1947, after a dry season and a number of brush fires in the area, a group of about 12 men met at the Village Improvement Association Hall, which stood on the hill behind where the police station and the community center stand today. These men discussed the need for a fire department in the community and later established The Edgewater Volunteer Firemen's Association. The department started with 18 firemen including a chief, assistant chief, first captain, second captain, first lieutenant and second lieutenant.
In April of 1948 Fire Chief Cannon became ill and Elmer Bane was appointed acting Chief. Bane served as acting chief until October when he was elected chief and then served until 1952. The firemen were notified of fire by a siren that was installed on a pole at the corner of Park Avenue, which was located in the center of town. When there was a fire, one of the volunteer firemen that lived next to the siren would blow it. A shed to store their first fire truck an American LaFrance was constructed on Park Avenue where the water department is currently located. The shed was constructed by the firemen on evenings and weekends.
In 1948 the department had responded to five fire calls and conducted drills once a month. By 1951, the department responded to 26 fires. Because of the number of brush fires in the area, the year 1952 brought about some changes. Chief Banes wanted to purchase a unit with the capability of pumping from the front. When the department bought a new 1950 Seagraves Engine despite his protests, he, along with several members, quit in April of 1952.
Later in 1952, the department was reorganized with a new set of by-laws. The new members were required to apply for membership and the roster was soon filled to 20 men due to the increased population.
In 1953, the men started a dues assessment on themselves to raise funds to purchase another fire truck. A used truck was purchased and fitted with a custom built tank. A pump and booster hose was then added. Later, 1 1/2 fire hose was purchased and installed. All of this was done by volunteers without assistance from the city. Meanwhile, the wives of the firemen formed the auxiliary to the department in 1953.
Since the meeting hall was running out of room, talk turned to building a new community center/fire station combination with kitchen facilities and public rest rooms. Mayor Lear suggested this to the community-minded members of the department and they mapped out a plan and later a building fund was established. Plans were made to hold a dinner at the Hawks Park Clubhouse in March of 1954 and sell tickets to raise money. The auxiliary was enticed into helping with the dinner. They baked pies and served turkey dinners with all the trimmings to clear a profit of $290. Some of the proceeds went toward the new truck and the remainder went into the building fund.
The footer for the new community center was poured in February of 1954. When the cornerstone was laid in April of 1954, the new fire truck was presented to the town. An auction was held in late April and a chicken barbecue was held on July 5th, along with square dancing and fireworks at night, to raise funds for the completion of the building. The proceeds for the daylong activities were placed into the building fund. Work progressed through 1955 with the fire station started on the back of the building. The first ham dinner was held in the new community center on February 21, 1955. This dinner became an annual fund-raiser for the department. The ham dinners were served by the firemen, auxiliary members and their families until 1977 when the menu was changed to roast beef. The department continued this annual roast beef dinner until 1989. The fire station took another two years to complete.
The Park and Pier project and the widening of Highway #1 that was started in 1957 created problems with power to the department’s siren. The telephone company worked out a deal with the firemen to install phones in their homes. Around June of 1957, the department started the phone call system of notification. When a fire was called in, the person taking the call would call three firemen and their wives would in turn call three additional firemen. This system worked well until 1977, when the department began using the paging system, which is still used to this day.
In 1957, a Board of Governors was installed by the Town Council to run the community center. The department assisted the board in the selling of raffle tickets to be used to purchase air conditioners for the center. The first Little Miss Edgewater contest was held at the community center on July 4, 1957, and was later changed to include Little Master. Both continue to this day.
By 1959 when the Florida Shores development started to expand, it was necessary for the department to increase membership to 30 men. Other changes included more family activities for the membership because of the many hours firemen spent serving the community. During the ‘60s, the department started to sponsor many youth activities to assist the community in providing recreation for the area children.
In 1965 a new Class A Pumper was purchased for the department. Once the new apparatus was placed into service, the old Seagraves was retired from service. By the late ‘60s, the department again started to experience growing pains and plans were formulated for a new firehouse. Property was purchased further south - closer to the center of the shifting population. Ground was broken in 1972 and many hours by the volunteers were dedicated to the design and construction of the new larger firehouse. The volunteer firemen and their families again constructed the firehouse. The department moved to the new location in 1973. The apparatus bay of the old fire station became a storage facility for two years until the city remodeled it into a police station, which moved the police department out of City Hall. The old meeting room was turned over to the newly formed Edgewater Volunteer Emergency Rescue (EVER) department, which formed in 1975. EVER remained in the old firehouse until 1981 when the Edgewater Rotary built a new building next to the new firehouse. Then the police department used the old firehouse as their sole facility until the late ‘80s.
In January of 1975, the department assumed running Tuesday night bingo after the American Legion post gave it up. The funds earned were used to purchase much needed equipment for the fire department and EVER. In the early 1980s, select bingo games were held to raise funds for the purchase of computers for the Edgewater Elementary School. The teachers assisted with the special games. The department also used their fund raising proceeds to sponsor baseball teams, football teams, swim teams, soccer teams, bowling teams, awards for high school teams and purchased uniforms for the New Smyrna Beach High School football team and the junior high school band.
In 1976, the increase in brush fires lead to the purchase of a four-wheel drive truck, which was accommodated with a 200-gallon tank with a pump and a booster reel that was donated to the department by a local widowed doctor’s wife. Later in the year a mutual aid pact was signed with the Division of Forestry Services and the fire department received a used 500-gallon tanker in return. One of Edgewater’s largest structure fires took place in November of 1976 and started the workings of a countywide mutual aid agreement. This fire destroyed Coronado Paint Company, which was one of Edgewater’s largest manufacturing businesses and brought units from as far as Brevard County and the Kennedy Space Center. An incident of this magnitude proved multi-jurisdictional fire departments could work well together and initiated a mutual pact for all of Volusia County.
Two years of contract negotiation with Volusia County to form a tax district was settled in 1979. This district was titled the Greater Edgewater Fire District and encompassed portions of the county adjacent to Edgewater city limits. The contract was an agreement that the department would furnish the manpower and the county would collect taxes to buy the equipment to service the district. Along with the contract was a parcel of county land on Mango Tree Drive that was deeded to the City of Edgewater for the construction of a firehouse. One windy February afternoon in 1979 tested the new mutual aid agreement for the department. A large brush fire started at the west end of the Florida Shores subdivision and was not brought under control until it had reached the river. The responding departments were able to protect all of the subdivision's homes and only one fireman suffered a serious burn injury; he later recovered. It was a large fire that brought units from all over the county to work together and again directed the department to increase its membership level to 40 men along with an approval to allow members to reside outside of the city but within the fire district.
Fire Station #2 was completed in 1981 and housed additional brush trucks and apparatus purchased by the county to fulfill the agreement. The station was the fourth fire station that the volunteer firemen and their families had constructed for the city. That year continued to test the mutual aid agreement with large brush fires, including one in June. This fire was started by lightning in the Crane Swamp area west of Edgewater and burned for three months. The State Forestry took command, but many hours were spent by Edgewater’s volunteer firemen assisting with extinguishing the fire.
The county contract was renewed on an annual basis until 1988 when the county decided not to renew the agreement. At this time, it was necessary for Edgewater to return the county equipment and purchase two Class A Pumpers as replacements. It was also August of 1988 that the first female firefighter was voted into the department. Until this time period, the department was solely male members and it wasn't until later that the charter was rewritten to reflect the change.
At the end of 1989, the fire department and the rescue department were joined together. Beforehand, they were completely separate with many members serving on both departments. In November of 1989, the city hired its first paid fire department members to create a combination career and volunteer department. The first hiring consisted of a fire chief and a lieutenant who were directed to hire an inspector and three additional firefighters. All staff members, with the exception of the fire chief, were hired from the volunteers. This made the department transition easier. The career members were scheduled to cover daytime hours during the week when the volunteer response was low due to the volunteers working regular jobs.
In March of 1991, the city hired additional personnel to staff a single apparatus 24 hours days Monday through Friday and left the weekends and holidays for volunteers to cover. This staffing schedule remained for one year until the staff lieutenant transferred to the operations division which provided the personnel to staff a single two-person engine 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The department was staffed with 11 career personnel, including a fire chief with a staff assistant, a fire marshal and 24 volunteers. The Life Safety Division included the fire marshal who was responsible for performing life safety inspections and fire inspections of all new businesses within the city. All of the public education courses for the community and the "Learn Not to Burn" program also were coordinated through this division. The Operations Division consisted of 32 personnel divided into four shifts. Each shift had a driver/operator/sergeant and a volunteer corporal that were responsible for the management of their shift of eight personnel. Each shift was responsible for incident management, monthly company inspections, coordination of daily activities and administering required training courses to their shift members.
By 1995 the city continued to grow, as did the number of emergency incidents. Since the majority of the incidents were medical in nature and most of them required advanced life support, the city had decided to enhance the services with the addition of paramedics. With several members already having completed their paramedic training it was only a matter of obtaining appropriate equipment and licensing. The department identified the task as one of their goals and later began offering the enhanced services to the community on Dec. 25, 1995.
In 1998, the department promoted a new fire chief after the present chief resigned. The city also bought additional property in the Florida Shores subdivision and built a fire station there. With the new station, there was a need to hire additional staffing. New members were hired with the majority of them coming from the volunteer ranks. The fire chief felt it was important to try and hire the volunteers since they already had demonstrated their dedication to the city and knew the procedures.
In 2001 the department experienced another transition as the city manager had initiated some reorganization and placed the Code Enforcement and Animal Services into the department. The additional responsibilities required the department to create another division in order to supervise these services. The Division of Community Services was created and was supervised by the fire marshal.
Today, the department continues to operate a combination department with 28 career personnel and many volunteers, which makeup three divisions. The Operations Division is balanced in three platoons of firefighters that work shift work of on-duty for 24 hours and then off-duty for 48 hours. The three platoons staff two stations and respond to emergency and non-emergency request for service calls. The Life Safety Division is comprised of the fire marshal, who coordinates the fire prevention aspect of the fire service. Code Enforcement and Animal Services makeup the Community Services Division. A very active not-for-profit auxiliary that is made up of departmental members as well as their family members and other residents that want to support their community fire department also support the Department.
The auxiliary is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and is commonly referred to as the Association. Along with fund-raising activities, the association sponsors many little league sports teams and supports the community through various activities. The association has also coordinated the annual Fourth of July festivities for community for over 50 years. The association also garnishes support to the Operations Division by the provision of support personnel to do non-emergency tasks on large incidents and at trainings.
The Edgewater Fire Department has advanced a long way from a police chief carrying water tanks in the trunk of his patrol car responding to five brush fires per year, into a well-organized combination department responding to an average of 2,200 incidents annually. Not only has the department increased its call volume, it also has expanded the level of service to provide emergency medical services, hazardous materials response fire suppression, business inspections, emergency management, water rescue and a variety of public education courses including cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, "Learn Not to Burn" and baby-sitter courses. The department also manages all aspects of code enforcement and animal services.
The department continues to pride itself on providing very cost effective services while assuring that the level of service or the customer service is never below the expectations of the community. As the department continues to plan for the future, the community can expect continuous expansion of the services that are offered to the citizens. The present goals will guide the department towards the ability to provide ambulance transport for the residents, increased working relationships with neighboring communities and additional home healthcare services delivered to patients confined to their homes.