Establishing a Volunteer Fire Department
The DeKalb Fire Department was established in 1869 as a hook and ladder company staffed by volunteer firefighters. These firefighters were paid a small amount of money per call. The department remained a volunteer service until 1904.
Becoming a Paid Fire Department
In February 1904, the City hired 4 full-time paid firefighters and occupied a new fire station on north 4th street. The firefighters staffed a steel chemical and hose wagon along with a new ladder truck. The hose wagon and ladder truck were pulled by horses. These paid firefighters were on duty for 6 complete days with a 1-hour meal break and on the 7th day they would receive a 12-hour break.
In 1926, a platoon system was developed for fire station staffing where the firefighters were assigned to a 24 hours on, 24 hours off schedule. In the 1950s, the platoon system was revised to the 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule that is in use today.
The first ambulance service was provided using a horse drawn wagon. Later, a motorized ambulance, which doubled as a police paddy wagon, was purchased. Only 1 police officer and 1 firefighter served as an ambulance crew and provided first aid services. This arrangement between the Police Department and Fire Department continued until the 1950s when the Fire Department assumed complete responsibility for emergency medical responses.
In February 1977, the Fire Department trained 14 firefighters as paramedics. By mid-summer, the department was providing paramedic level emergency medical services and was 1 of just over 200 fire departments across the country to provide this level of care.
Today, the DeKalb Fire Department provides service to the community from 3 fire stations using modern fire apparatus. The firefighters are trained and equipped to respond to nearly any type of emergency.